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BEN-HUR 



A TALE OF THE CHRIST 



BY 



LEW. WALLACE 

AUTHOR OF **THB FAIR GOD '* 



" Learn of the philosophers always to look for natural causes in all extrao^ 
dinary events; and when such natural causes are wauting, recur to God" 

Count de Gabaus 




lontlon : 
SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON, SEARLB, & RIVINGTON, 

OEOWN BUILDINGS, 188, FLEET STREET. 

188L 



^- 



LOSDON : 
GILBRRT AND XIYINGTON, PRINTEfiS, 

ST. John's square. 



TO 

THE WIFE OF MY YOUTH 



"But this repetition of the old story is just the fkirest charm of domestic 
discourse. If we can often repeat to ourselves sweet thoughts without ennui, 
why shall not another be suffered to awaken them within us still oftener." — 
Hetp. : JsAir Paul F. Richteb. 



"See how firom far upon the eastern road 
The star-led wisards haste with odours sweet 

« « « « « « 

But peaceful was the night 
Wherein the Prince of Light 

His reign of peace upon the earth began; 
The winds with wonder whist 
Smoothly the waters kist, 

Whispering new Joys to the mild ocean— 
Who now hath quite forgot to rave, 
While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave." 

ChrisVi NaiivUy: The Hymru—yiiLTOist. 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 



BOOK FIRST. 



Chapter L 



The Jebel es Zubleh is a mountain fifty miles and more 
in length, and so narrow that its tracery on the map gives 
it a likeness to a caterpillar crawling from the south to the 
north. Standing on its red-and-white cliffs, and looking 
ofE under the path of the rising sun, one sees only the Des- 
ert of Arabia, where the east winds, so hateful to the vine- 
growers of Jericho, have kept their playgrounds since the 
beginning. Its feet are well covered by sands tossed from 
the Euphrates, there to lie ; for the mountain is a wall to 
the pasture-lands of Moab and Ammon on the west — lands 
which else had been of the desert a part. 

The Arab has impressed his language upon everythinpr 
south and east of Judea; so, in his tongue, the old Jebcl 
is the parent of numberless wadies which, intersecting the 
Roman road — now a dim suggestion of what once it was, 
a dusty path for Syrian pilgrims to and from Mecca — run 
their furrows, deepening as they go, to pass the torrents of 
the rainy season into the Jordan, or their last receptacle, the 
Dead Sea. Out of one of these wadies — or, more particu- 
larly, out of that one which rises at the extreme end of the 
Jebely and, extending east of north, becomes at length the 
bed of the Jabbok River — a traveller passed, going to the 
table-lands of the desert. To this person the attention of 
the reader is first besought. 



a BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

Judged by his appearance, he was quite forty -fire years 
old. iis beard, once of the deepest black, flowing broadly 
over his breast, was streaked with white. His face was 
brown as a parched coffee-berry, and so hidden by a red 
kufiyeh (as the kerchief of the head is at this day called 
by the children of the desert) as to be but in part visible. 
Now and then he raised his eyes, and they were large and 
dark. He was clad in the flowing garments so universal 
in the East; but their style may not be described more 
particularly, for he sat under a miniature tent, and rode a 
great white dromedary. 

It may be doubted if the people of the West ever over- 
come the impression made upon them by the first view of a 
camel equipped and loaded for the desert. Custom, so fa- 
tal to other novelties, affects this feeling but little. At the 
end of long journeys with caravans, after years of residence 
"with the Bedawin, the Westem-bom, wherever they may be, 
will stop and wait the passing of the stately brute. The 
charm is not in the figure, which not even love can make 
beautiful ; nor in the movement, the noiseless stepping, or 
the broad careen. As is the kindness of the sea to a ship, 
so is that of the desert to its creature. It clothes him with 
all its mysteries ; in such manner, too, that while we are 
looking at him we are thinking of them: therein is the 
wonder. The anmoal which now came out of the wady 
might well have claimed the customary homage. Its color 
and height ; its breadth of foot ; its bulk of body, not fat, 
but overlaid with mnscle ; its long, slender neck, of swan 
like curvature ; the head, wide between the eyes, and taper- 
ing to a muzzle which a lady's bracelet might have almost 
clasped ; its motion, step long and elastic, tread sure and 
soundless — all certified its Syrian blood, old as the days of 
Cyrus, and absolutely priceless. There was the usual bridle, 
covering the forehead with scarlet fringe, and garnishing the 
throat with pendent brazen chains, each ending with a tin- 
kling silver bell ; but to the bridle there was neither rein for 
the rider nor strap for a driver. The furniture perched on 
the back was an invention which with any other people than 
of the East would have made the inventor renowned. It 
consisted of two wooden boxes, scarce four feet in length, 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 7 

balanced «o that one hung at each side; the inner space, 
softly lined and carpeted, was arranged to allow the master 
to sit or lie half reclined ; over it all was stretched a green 
awning. Broad back and breast straps, and girths, secured 
with countless knots and ties, held the device in place. In 
such manner the ingenious sons of Cush had contrived to 
make comfortable the sunburnt ways of the wilderness, 
along which lay their duty as often as their pleasure. 

"When the dromedary lifted itself out of the last break 
of the wady, the traveller had passed the boundary of 
El Belka, the ancient Amraon. It was morning time. Be- 
fore him was the sun, half curtained in fleecy mist ; before 
him also spread the desert ; not the realm of drifting sands, 
which was farther on, but the region where the herbage 
began to dwarf ; where the surface is strewn with boulders 
of granite, and gray and brown stones, interspersed with 
languishing acacias and tufts of cam el -grass. The oak, 
bramble, and arbutus lay behind, as if they had come to a 
line, looked over into the well-less waste, and crouched with 
fear. 

And now there was an end of path or road. More than 
ever the camel seemed insensibly driven ; it lengthened and 
quickened its pace, its head pointed straight towards the 
horizon; through the wide nostrils it drank the wind in 
great draughts. The litter swayed, and rose and fell like a 
boat in the waves. Dried leaves in occasional beds rustled 
underfoot. Sometimes a perfume like absinthe sweetened 
all the air. Lark and chat and rock-swallow leaped to 
wins, and white partridges ran whistling and clucking out 
of the way. More rarely a fox or a hyena quickened his 
gallop, to study the intruders at a safe distance. Off to the 
right rose the hills of the Jebel, the pearl-gray veil resting 
upon them changing momentarily into a purple which the 
sun would make matchless a little later. Over their high- 
est peaks a vulture sailed on broad wings into widening 
circles. But of all these things the tenant under the green 
tent saw nothing, or, at least, made no sign of recognition. 
His eyes were fixed and dreamy. The going of the man, 
like that of the animal, was as one being led. 

For two hours the dromedary swung forward, keeping 



8 BEN-flUR : A TALE OF THE CHBIST. 

the trot steadily and the line dae east. In that time the 
traveller never changed his position, nor looked to the right 
or left. On the desert, distance is not measured bv miles or 
leagues, but by the saxit^ or hour, and the manzil, or halt: 
three and a half leagues fill the former, fifteen or twenty- 
five the latter; but they are the rates for the common 
camel. A carrier of the genuine Syrian stock can make 
three leagues easily. At full speed he overtakes the ordi- 
nary winds. As one of the results of the rapid advance, the 
face of the landscape underwent a change. The Jebel 
stretched along the western horizon, like a pale-blue ribbon. 
A tell, or hummock of clay and cemented sand, arose here 
and there. Now and then basaltic stones lifted their round 
crowns, outposts of the mountain against the forces of the 
plain; all else, however, was sand, sometimes smooth as 
the beaten beach, then heaped in rolling ridges; here chop- 
ped waves, there long swells. So, too, the condition of the 
atmosphere changed. The sun, high risen, had drunk his 
fill of dew and mist, and warmed the breeze that kissed the 
wanderer under the awning; far and near he was tinting 
the earth with faint milk-whiteness, and shimmering all the 
sky. 

Two hours more passed without rest or deviation from 
the course. Vegetation entirely ceased. The sand, so 
crusted on the surface that it broke into rattling fiakes at 
every step, held undisputed sway. The Jebel was out of 
view, and there was no landmark visible. The shadow that 
before followed had now shifted to the north, and was keep- 
ing even race with the objects which cast it ; and as there 
was no sign of halting, the conduct of the traveller became 
each moment more strange. 

No one, be it remembered, seeks the desert for a pleasure- 
ground. Life and business traverse it by paths along which 
the bones of things dead are strewn as so many blazons. 
Such are the roads from well to well, from pasture to past- 
ure. The heart of the most veteran sheik beats quicker 
when he finds himself alone in the pathless tracts. So the 
man with whom we are dealing could not have been in 
search of pleasure ; neither was his manner that of a fugitive : 
not once did he look behind him. In such situations fear 



BEX-nUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 9 

and curiosity are the most common sensations ; he was not 
moved by them. When men are lonely, they stoop to any 
companionship ; the dog becomes a comrade, the horse a 
friend, and it is no shame to shower them with caresses and 
speeches of love. The camel received no such token, not a 
touch, not a word. 

Exactly at noon the dromedary, of its own will, stopped, 
and uttered the cry or moan, peculiarly piteous, by which 
its kind always protest against an overload, and sometimes 
crave attention and rest The master thereupon bestirred 
himself, waking, as it were, from sleep. He threw the cur- 
tains of the houdah up, looked at the sun, surveyed the 
country on every side long and carefully, as if to identify 
an appointed place. Satisfied with the inspection, he drew 
a deep breath and nodded, much as to say "At last, at 
lastT' A moment after, he crossed his hands upon his 
breast, bowed his head, and prayed silently. The pious 
duty done, he prepared to dismount. From his throat pro- 
ceeded the sound heard doubtless by the favorite camels of 
Job — Ikh / ikh ! — the signal to kneel. Slowly the animal 
obeyed, grunting the while. The rider then put his foot 
upon the slender neck, and stepped upon the sand. 



Chapter II. 

The man as now revealed was of admirable proportions, 
not so tall as powerful. Loosening the silken rope which 
held the kufiyeh on his head, he brushed the fringed folds 
back until his face was bare — a strong face, almost negro in 
color ; yet the low, broad forehead, aquiline nose, the outer 
comers of the eyes turned slightly upward, the hair profuse, 
straight, harsh, of metallic lustre, and falling to the shoulder 
in many plaits, were signs of origin impossible to disguise. 
So looked the Pharaohs and the later Ptolemies ; so looked 
Mizraim, father of the Egyptian race. He wore the kamiSy 
a white cotton shirt, tight-sleeved, open in front, extending 
to the ankles and embroidered down the collar and breast, 
over which was thrown a brown woollen cloak, now, as in 



10 BEN-HUR: A TALE (» THE CHRIST. 

all probability it was then, called the dba, an outer garment 
with long skirt and short sleeves, lined inside with stuff of 
mixed cotton and silk, edged all round with a margin of 
clouded yellow. His feet were protected by sandals, 
attached by thongs of soft leather. A sash held the kamis 
to his waist. What was very noticeable, considering he 
was alone, and that the desert was the haunt of leopards 
and lions, and men quite as wild, he carried no arms, not 
even the crooked stick used for guiding camels ; wherefore 
we may at least infer his errand peaceful, and that he was 
either uncommonly bold or under^extraordinary protection. 

The traveller's limbs were numb, for the ride had been 
long and wearisome ; so he rubbed his hands and stamped 
his feet, and walked round the faithful servant, whose lus- 
trous eyes were closing in calm content with the cud he had 
already found. Often, while making the circuit, he paused, 
and, shading his eyes with his hands, examined the desert 
to the extremest verge of vision ; and always, when the sur- 
vey was ended, his face clouded with disappointment, slight, 
but enough to advise a shrewd spectator that he was there 
expecting company, if not by appointment; at the same 
time, the spectator would have been conscious of a sharp- 
ening of the curiosity to learn what the business could be 
that required transaction in a place so far from civilized 
abode. 

However disappointed, there could be little doubt of the 
stranger's confidence in the coming of the expected com- 
pany. In token thereof, he went first to the litter, and, 
from the cot or box opposite the one he had occupied in 
coming, produced a sponge and a small gurglet of water, 
with which he washed the eyes, face, and nostrils of the 
camel ; that done, from the same depository he drew a cir- 
cular cloth, red-and-white-striped, a bundle of rods, and a 
stout cane. The latter, after some manipulation, proved to 
be a cunning device of lesser joints, one within another, 
which, when united together, formed a centre pole higher 
than his head. When the pole was planted, and the rods 
set around it, he spread the cloth over them, and was liter- 
ally at home — a home much smaller than the habitations 
of emir and sheik, yet their counterpart in all other re- 



BEX-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHKIST. 1 1 

spects. From the litter again he broaght a carpet or square 
rug, and covered the floor of the tent on the side from the 
sun. That done, he went out, and once more, and with 
greater care and more eager eyes, swept the encircling coun- 
try. Except a distant jackal, galloping across the plain, 
and an eagle flying towards the Gulf of Akaba, the waste 
below, like the blue above it, was lifeless. 

He turned to the camel, saying low, and in a tongue 
strange to the desert, " We are far from home, O racer 
with the swiftest winds — we are far from home, but God is 
with us. Let us be patient." 

Then he took some beans from a pocket in the saddle, 
and put them in a bag made to hang below the animaPs 
nose ; and when he saw the relish with which the good ser- 
vant took to the food, he turned and again scanned the 
world of sand, dim with the glow of the vertical sun. 

" They will come," he said, calmly. " He that led me is 
leading them. I will make ready." 

From the pouches which lined the interior of the cot, 
and from a willow basket which was part of its furniture, 
he brought forth materials for a meal : platters close-woven 
of the fibres of palms; wine in small gurglets of skin; 
mutton dried and smoked; stoneless skami, or Syrian 
pomegranates; dates of £1 Shelebi, wondrous rich and 
grown in the nakhil, or palm orchards, of Central Arabia; 
cheese, like David's " slices of milk ;" and leavened bread 
from the city bakery — all which he carried and set upon 
the carpet under the tent. As the final preparation, about 
the provisions he laid three pieces of silk cloth, used among 
refined people of the East to cover the knees of guests 
while ^t table — a circumstance significant of the number of 
persons who were to partake of his entertainment — the 
number ho was awaiting. 

All was now ready. He stepped out : lo I in the east a 
dark speck on the face of the desert. He stood as if rooted 
to the ground ; his eyes dilated ; his flesh crept chilly, as if 
touched by something supernatural. The speck grew ; be- 
became large as a hand ; at length assumed defined propor- 
tions. A little later, full into view swung a duplication of 
his own dromedary, tall and white, and bearing a houdah^ 



12 BEX-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

the travelling litter of Hindostan. Then the Egyptian 
crossed his hands upon his breast, and looked to heaven. 

" God only is great !" he exclaimed, his eyes full of tears, 
his soul in awe. 

The stranger drew nigh — at last stopped. Then he, too, 
seemed just waking. He beheld the kneeling camel, the 
tent, and the man standing prayerfully at the door. He 
crossed his hands, bent his head, and prayed silently ; after 
which, in a little while, he stepped from his camel's neck 
to the sand, and advanced towards the Egyptian, as did the 
Egyptian towards him. A moment they looked at each 
other ; then they embraced — that is, each threw his right 
arm over the other's shoulder, and the left round the side, 
placing his chin first upon the left, then upon the right 
breast. 

" Peace be with thee, O servant of the true God !" the 
stranger said. 

"And to thee, O brother of the true faith! — to thee 
peace and welcome," the Egyptian replied, with fervor. 

The new-comer was tall and gaunt, with lean face, sunken 
eyes, white hair and beard, and a complexion between the 
hue of cinnamon and bronze. He, too, was unarmed. His 
costume was Hindostani; over the skull-cap a shawl was 
wound in great folds, forming a turban ; his body garments 
were in the style of the Egyptian's, except that the aba was 
shorter, exposing wide flowing breeches gathered at the 
ankles. In place of sandals, his feet were clad in half-slip- 
pers of red leather, pointed at the toes. Save the slippers, 
the costume from head to foot was of white linen. The 
air of the man was high, stately, severe. Visvamitra, the 
greatest of the ascetic heroes of the Iliad of the East, had 
in him a perfect representative. He might have been called 
a Life drenched with the wisdom of Brahma — ^Devotion 
Incarnate. Only in his eyes was there proof of humanity ; 
when he lifted his face from the Egyptian's breast, they 
were glistening with tears. 

" God only is great !" he exclaimed, when the embrace 
was finished. 

" And blessed are they that serve him !" the Egyptian 
answered, wondering at the paraphrase of his own excla^ 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 13 

roation. "But let us wait," he added, "let us wait; for 
see, the other comes yonder !" 

They looked to the north, where, already plain to view, a 
third camel, of the whiteness of the others, came careening 
like a ship. They waited, standing together — waited until 
the new-comer arrived, dismounted, and advanced towards 
them. 

" Peace to you,0 my brother!" he said, while embracing 
jthe Hindoo. 

And the Hindoo answered, " God's will be done 1" 

The last comer was all unlike his friends ; his frame was 
slighter ; his complexion white ; a mass of waving light hair 
>vas a perfect crown for his small but beautiful head ; the 
warmth of his dark-blue eyes certified a delicate mind, and 
a cordial, brave nature. He was bareheaded and unarmed. 
Under the folds of the Tyrian blanket which he wore with 
unconscious grace appeared a tunic, short-sleeved and low- 
necked, gathered to the waist by a band, and reaching nearly 
to the knee; leaving the neck, arms, and legs bare. San- 
dals guarded his feet. Fifty years, probably more, had 
spent themselves upon him, with no other effect, apparently, 
than to tinge his demeanor with gravity and temper his 
words with forethought. The physical organization and 
the brightness of soul were untouched. No need to tell 
the student from what kindred he was sprung ; if he came 
not himself from the groves of Athen6, his ancestry did. 

When his arms fell from the Egyptian, the latter said, 
with a tremulous voice, " The Spirit brought me first ; 
wherefore I know myself chosen to be the servant of my 
brethren. The tent is set, and the bread is ready for the 
breaking. Let me perform my oflSce." 

Taking each by the hand, he led them within, and 
removed their sandals and washed their feet, and he 
poured water upon their hands, and dried them with 
napkins. 

Then, when he had laved his own hands, he said, " Let us 
take care of ourselves, brethren, as our service requires, and 
eat, that we may be strong for what remains of the day's 
duty. "While we eat, we will each learn who the others are, 
and whence they come, and how they are called." 



14 BEN-HUB: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

He took them to the repast, and seated them so that 
they faced each other. Simaltaneously their heads bent 
forward, their hands crossed upon their breasts, and, speak- 
ing together, they said aloud this simple grace : 

" Father of aU — God ! — what we have here is of thee ; 
take our thanks and bless us, that we may continue to do 
thy will." 

With the last word they raised their eyes, and looked at 
each other in wonder. Each had spoken in a language 
never before heard by the others ; yet each understood per- 
fectly what was said. Their souls thrilled with divine 
emotion; for by the miracle they recognized the Divine 
Presence. 



Chapter IIL 

To speak in the style of the period, the meeting just 
described took place in the year of Rome 747. The month 
was December, and winter reigned over all the regions east 
of the Mediterranean. Such as ride upon the desert in this 
season go not far until smitten with a keen appetite. The 
company under the little tent were not exceptions to the 
rule. They were hungry, and ate heartily ; and, after the 
wine, they talked. 

^* To a wayfarer in a strange land nothing is so sweet as 
to hear his name on the tongue of a friend," said the 
E^ptian, who assumed to be president of the repast. 
'* Before us lie many days of companionship. It is time 
we knew each other. So, if it be agreeable, he who came 
last shall be first to speak." 

Then, slowly at first, like one watchful of himself, the 
Greek began : 

" What I have to tell, my brethren, is so strange that I 
hardly know where to begin or what I may with propriety 
speak. I do not yet understand myself. The most I am 
sure of is that I am doing a Master's will, and that the ser- 
vice is a constant ecstasy. When I think of the purpose I 
am sent to fulfil, there is in me a joy so inexpressible that 
I know the will is God's." 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 15 

The good man paused, unable to proceed, while the 
others, in sympathy with his feelings, dropped their gaze. 

** Far to the west of this," he began again, ** there is a 
land which may never be forgotten ; if only because the 
world is too much its debtor, and because the indebtedness 
is for things that bring to men their purest pleasures. I 
will say nothing of the arts, nothing of philosophy, of elo- 
quence, of poetry, of war : O my brethren, hers is the glory 
which must shine forever in perfected letters, by which He 
we go to find and proclaim will be made known to all the 
' earth. The land I speak of is Greece. I am Caspar, son of 
Cleanthes the Athenian. 

" My people," he continued, " were given wholly to study, 
and from them I derived the same passion. It happens 
that two of our philosophers, the very greatest of the many, 
teach, one the doctrine of a Soul in every man, and its Im- 
mortality ; the other the doctrine of One God, infinitely just. 
From the multitude of subjects about which the schools 
were disputing, I separated them, as alone worth the labor 
of solution ; for I thought there was a relation between 
God and the soul as yet unknown. On this theme the 
mind can reason to a point, a dead, impassable wall ; arrived 
there, all that remains is to stand and cry aloud for help. 
So I did ; but no voice came to me over the wall. In de- 
spair, I tore myself from the cities and the schools." 

At these words a grave smile of approval lighted the 
gaunt face of the Hindoo. 

" In the northern part of my country — in Thessaly," the 
Greek proceeded to say, *' there is a mountain famous as 
the home of the gods, where Theus, whom my countrymen 
believe supreme, has his abode; Olympus is its name. 
Thither I betook myself. I found a cave in a hill where 
the mountain, coming from the west, bends to the south- 
east ; there I dwelt, giving myself up to meditation — no, I 
gave myself up to waiting for what every breath was a 
prayer — for revelation. Believing in God, invisible yet su- 
preme, I also believed it possible so to yearn for him with all 
my soul that he would take compassion and give me answer." 

"And he did — he did!" exclaimed the Hindoo, lifting 
his hands from the silken cloth upon his lap. 



16 BEX-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

"Hear me, bretliren," said the Greek, calming himself 
with an effort. " The door of my hermitage looks over an 
arm of the sea, over the Thermaic Gulf. One day I saw a 
man flung overboard from a ship sailing by. He swam 
ashore. I received and took care of him. He was a Jew, 
learned in the history and laws of his people; and from 
him I came to know that the God of my prayers did in- 
deed exist, and had been for ages their lawmaker, ruler, and 
king. What was that but the Revelation I dreamed of? 
My faith had not been fruitless ; God answered me I " 

" As he does all who cry to him with such faith," said 
the Hindoo. 

"But, alas!" the Egyptian added, "how few are there 
wise enough to know when he answers them !" 

" That was not all," the Greek continued. " The man so 
sent to me told me more. He said the prophets who, in 
the ages which followed the first revelation, walked and 
talked with God, declared he would come again. He gave 
me the names of the prophets, and from the sacred books 
quoted their very language. He told me, further, that the 
second coming was at hand — was looked for momentarily 
in Jerusalem." 

The Greek paused, and the brightness of his countenance 
faded. 

" It is true," he said, after a little — "it is true the man 
told me that as God and the revelation of which he spoke 
had been for the Jews alone, so it would be again. He 
that was to come should be King of the Jews. * Had he 
nothing for the rest of the world V I asked. * No,' was 
the answer, given in a proud voice — ' No, we are his chosen 
people.' The answer did not crush my hope. Why should 
such a God limit his love and benefaction to one land, and, 
as it were, to one family ? I set my heart upon knowing. 
At last I broke through the man's pride, and found that 
his fathers had been merely chosen servants to keep the 
Truth alive, that the world might at last know it and be 
saved. When the Jew was gone, and I was alone again, I 
chastened my soul with a new prayer — that I might be 
permitted to see the King when he was come, and worship 
him. One night I sat by the door of my cave trying to 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 1 7 

get nearer the mysteries of my existence, knowing which is 
to know God ; suddenly, on the sea helow me, or rather in 
the darkness that covered its face, I saw a star begin to 
bum ; slowly it arose and drew nigh, and stood over the 
hill and above my door, so that its light shone full upon 
me. I fell down, and slept, and in my dream I heard a 
voice say : 

" * O Gaspar I Thy faith hath conquered I Blessed art 
thou ! With two others, come from the uttermost parts of 
the earth, thou shalt see Him that is promised, and be a 
witness for him, and the occasion of testimony in his be- 
half. In the morning arise, and go meet them, and keep 
trust in the Spirit that shall guide thee.' 

" And in the morning I awoke with the Spirit as a light 
within me surpassing that of the sun. I put off my her- 
mit's garb, ana dre^ed myself as of old. From a hiding- 
place I took the treasure which I had brought from the city. 
A ship went sailing past. I hailed it, was taken aboard, and 
landed at Antioch. There I bought the camel and his fur- 
niture. Through the gardens and orchards that enamel the 
banks of the Orontes, I journeyed to Emesa, Damascus, 
Bostra, and Philadelphia ; thence hither. And so, O breth- 
ren, you have my story. JjQt me now listen to you." 



Chaptkr IV. 

Thb Egjrptian and the Hindoo looked at each other ; the 
former waved his hand ; the latter bowed, and began : 

"Our brother has spoken well. May my words be as 
wise." 

He broke off, reflected a moment, then resumed : 

" You may know me, brethren, by the name of Melchior. 
I speak to you in a language which, if not the oldest in the 
world, was at least the soonest to be reduced to letters — I 
mean the Sanscrit of India. I am a Hmdoo by birth. My 

Seople were the first to walk in the fields of knowledge, 
rst to divide them, first to make them beautiful. What- 
ever may hereafter befall, the four Yedas moat live, for they 
2 



18 BExN.HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

are tbe primal fouDtains of religion and nseful intelligence. 
From them were derived the Upa-Vedas, which, delivered 
by Brahma, treat of medicine/ archery, architecture, music, 
and the four-and-sixty mechanical arts ; the Ved-Angas, re- 
vealed by inspired saints, and devoted to astronomy, gram- 
mar, prosody, pronunciation, charms and incantations, re- 
ligious rites and ceremonies ; the Up-Angas, written by the 
sage Vyasa, and given to cosmogony, chronology, and geog- 
raphy ; therein also are the Ramay&na and the Mahabhiirata, 
heroic poems, designed for the perpetuation of our gods and 
demi-gods. Such, O brethren, are the Great Shastras, or 
books of sacred ordinances. They are dead to me now ; 
yet through all time they will serve to illustrate the bud- 
ding genius of my race. They were promises of quick per- 
fection. Ask you why the promises failed? Alas! the 
books themselves closed all the gates of progress. Under 
pretext of care for the creature, their authors imposed the 
fatal principle that a man must not address himself to dis- 
covery or invention, as Heaven had provided him all things 
needful. When that condition became a sacred law, the 
lamp of Hindoo genius was let down a well, where ever 
since it has lighted narrow walls and bitter waters. 

" These allusions, brethren, are not from pride, as you 
will understand when I tell you that the Shastras teach a 
Supreme God called Brahm ; also, that the Pur&nas, or sa- 
cred poems of the Up-Angas, tell us of Virtue and Good 
Works, and of the Soul. So, if my brother will permit the 
saying" — the speaker bowed deferentially to the Greek — 
" ages before his people were known, the two great ideas, 
God and the Soul, had absorbed all the forces of the Hin- 
doo mind. In further explanation, let me say that Brahm 
is taught, by the same sacred books, as a Triad — Brahma, 
Vishnu, and Shiva. Of these, Brahma is said to have been 
the author of our race ; which, in course of creation, he di- 
vided into four castes. First, he peopled the worlds below 
and the heavens above ; next, he made the earth ready for 
terrestrial spirits ; then from his mouth proceeded the Brah- 
man caste, nearest in likeness to himself, highest and noblest, 
sole teachers of the Vedas, which at the same time flowed 
from his lips in finished state, perfect in all useful knowl- 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 19 

edge. From his arms next issued the Kshatriya, or war- 
riors ; from his breast, the seat of life, came the Vaisya, or 
producers — shepherds, farmers, merchants ; from his f oot^ in 
sign of degradation, sprang the Sudra, or serviles, doomed 
to menial duties for the other classes — serfs, domestics, la- 
borers, artisans. Take notice, further, that the law, so bom 
with them, forbade a man of one caste becoming a member 
of another ; the Brahman could not enter a lower order ; 
if he violated the laws of his own grade, he became an out- 
cast, lost to all but outcasts like himself." 

At this point, the imagination of the Greek, flashing for- 
ward upon all the consequences of such a degradation, over- 
came his eager attention, and he exclaimed, *^ In such a 
state, O brethren, what mighty need of a loving God !" 

" Yes," added the Egyptian, " of a loving God like ours." 

The brows of the Hindoo knit painfully ; when the emo- 
tion was spent, he proceeded, in a softened voice, 

" I was bom a Brahman. My life, consequently, was or- 
dered down to its least act, its last hour. My first draugcht 
of nouHshment ; the giving me my compoand name ; tek- 
ing me out the first time to see the sun ; investing me with 
the triple thread by which I became one of the twice-bom ; 
my induction into the first order — were all celebrated with 
sacred texts and rigid ceremonies. I might not walk, eat, 
drink, or sleep without danger of violating a mle. And the 
penalty, O brethren, the penalty was to my soul ! Accord- 
ing to the degrees of omission, my soul went to one of the 
heavens — Indra^s the lowest, Brahma^s the highest; or it was 
driven back to become the life of a worm, a fly, a fish, or a 
brate. The reward for perfect observance was Beatitude, 
or absorption into the being of Brahm, which was not ex- 
istence aa much as absolute rest." 

The Hindoo gave himself a moment's thought ; proceed- 
ing, he said, *' llie part of a Brahman's life called the first 
Older is his student life. When I was ready to enter the 
second order — ^that is to say, when I was ready to marry 
and become a householder — I questioned everything, even 
Brahm ; I was a heretic. From the depths of the well I 
had discovered a light above, and yeamed to go up and see 
what all it shone upon. At last — ah, with what years of 



20 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

toil ! — I stood in the perfect day, and beheld the principle of 
life, the element of religion, the link between the soul and 
God— Love !" 

The shrunken face of the good man kindled visibly, and 
he clasped his hands with force. A silence ensued, during 
which the others looked at him, the Greek through tears. 
At length he resumed : 

** The happiness of love is in action ; its test is what one 
is willing to do for others. I could not rest. Brahm had 
filled the world ¥^ith so much wretchedness. The Sudra ap- 
pealed to me ; so did the countless devotees and victims. 
The island of Ganga Lagor lies where the sacred waters of 
the Ganges disappear in the Indian Ocean. Thither I be- 
took myself. In the shade of the temple built there to the 
sage Kapila, in a union of prayers with the disciples whom 
the sanctified memory of the holy man keeps around his 
house, I thought to find rest. But twice every year came 
pilgrimages of Hindoos seeking the purification of the 
waters. Their misery strengthened my love. Against its 
impulse to speak, I clenched my jaws ; for one word against 
Brahm or the Triad or the Shastras would doom me ; one 
act of kindness to the outcast Brahmans who now and then 
dragged themselves to die on the burning sands — a blessing 
said, a cup of water given — and I became one of them, lost 
to family, country, privileges, caste. The love conquered ! 
I spoke to the disciples in the temple ; they drove me out. 
I spoke to the pilgrims ; they stoned me from the island. 
On the highways I attempted to preach ; my hearers fled 
from me, or sought my life. In all India, finally, there was 
not a place in which I could find peace or safety — not even 
among the outcasts ; for though fallen, they were still be- 
lievers in Brahm. In my extremity, I looked for a solitude 
in which to hide from all but God. I followed the Ganges 
to its source, far up in the Himalayas. When I entered the 
pass at Hurdwar, where the river, in unstained purity, leaps 
to its course through the muddy lowlands, I prayed for my 
race, and thought myself lost to them forever. Through 
gorges, over clLSs, across glaciers, by peaks that seemed star- 
high, I made my way to the Lang Tso, a lake of marvellous 
beauty, asleep at the feet of the Tise Gangri, the Gurla, and 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 21 

the Kailas Parbot, giants which flaunt their crowns of snow 
everlastingly in the face of the sun. There, in the centre of 
the earth ; where the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmapootra rise 
to run their different courses ; where mankind took up their 
first abode, and separated to replete the world, leaving Balk, 
the mother of cities, to attest the great fact ; where Nature, 
gone back to its primeval condition, and secure in its im- 
mensities, invites the sage and the exile, with promise of 
safety to the one and solitude to the other — tliere I went to 
abide alone with God, praying, fasting, waiting for death/' 

Again the voice fell, and the bony hands met in a fer- 
vent clasp. 

** One night I walked by the shores of the lake, and spoke 
to the listening silence, * When will God come and claim 
his own ? Is there to be no redemption V Suddenly a light 
began to glow tremulously out on the water; soon a star 
arose, and moved towards me, and stood overhead. The 
brightness stunned me. While I lay upon the ground, I 
heard a voice of infinite sweetness say, * Thy love hath con- 
quered. Blessed art thou, O son of India ! The redemption 
is at hand. With two others, from far quarters of the earth, 
thou shalt see the Redeemer,, and be a witness that he hath 
come. In the morning arise, and go meet them ; and put 
all thy trust in the Spirit which shall guide thee.' 

" And from that time the light has stayed with roe ; so I 
knew it was the visible presence of the Spirit. In the morn- 
ing 'I started to the world by the way I had come. In a 
cleft of the mountaim I found a stone of vast worth, which 
I sold in Hurdwar. By Lahore and Cabool, and Yezd, I 
came to Ispahan. There I bought the camel, and thence 
was led to Bagdad, not waiting for caravans. Alone I trav- 
elled, fearless, for the Spirit was with me, and is with me yet. 
What glory is ours^ O brethren ! We are to see the Re- 
deemer — ^to speak to him — to worship him ! I am done." 



22 BEN-HUK : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 



Chaptkb V. 

The vivacious Greek broke forth in expressions of joy 
and congratulations; after which the Egyptian said, with 
characteristic gravity : 

" I salute you, my brother. You have suffered much, and 
I rejoice in your triumph. If you are both pleased to hear 
me, I will now tell you who I am, and how I came to be 
called. Wait for me a moment." 

He went out and tended the camels ; coming back, he 
resumed his seat. 

" Your words, brethren, were of the Spirit," he said, in 
commencement; "and the Spirit gives me to understand 
them. You each spoke particularly of your countries ; in 
that there was a great object which I will explain ; but to 
make the interpretation complete, let me first speak of my- 
self and my people. I am Balthasar the Egyptian." 

The last words were spoken quietly, but with so much 
dignity that both listeners bowed to the speaker. 

" There are many distinctions I might claim for my race," 
he continued ; " but I will content myself with one. His- 
tory began with us. We were the first to perpetuate events 
by records kept. So we have no traditions ; and instead of 
poetry, we offer you certainty. On the fagades of palaces 
and temples, on obelisks, on the inner walls of tombs, we 
wrote the names of our kings, and what they did ; and to 
the delicate papyri we intrusted the wisdom of our philoso- 
phers and the secrets of our religion — all the secrets but one, 
whereof I will presently speak. Older than the Vedas of 
Para-Brahm or the Up-Angas of Vyasa, O Melchior ; older 
than the songs of Homer or the metaphysics of Plato, O 
my Gaspar ; older than the sacred books or kings of the peo- 
ple of China, or those of Sidd&rtha, son of the beautiful 
Maya ; older than the Genesis of Mosch6 the Hebrew — old- 
est of human records are the writings of Menes, our first 
king." Pausing an instant, he fixed his large eyes kindly 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 23 

upon the Greek, saying, " In the youth of Hellas, who, 
Gaspar, were the teachers of her teachers?" 

The Greek bowed, smiling. 

" By those records," Balthasar continued, " we know that 
when the fathers came from the far East, frcfm the region 
of the birth of the three sacred rivers, from the centre of 
the earth — the Old Iran of which you spoke, O Melchior — 
came bringing with them the history of the world before 
the Flood, and of the Flood itself, as given to the Aryans by 
the sons of Noah, they taught God, the Creator and the 
Beginning, and the Soul, deathless as God. When the duty 
which calls us now is happily done, if you choose to go with 
me, I will show you the sacred library of our priesthood; 
among others, the Book of the Dead, in which is the rit- 
ual to be observed by the soul after Death has despatched 
it on its journey to judgment. The ideas — God and the 
Immortal Soul — were borne to Mizraim over the desert, and 
by him to the banks of the Nile. They were then in their 
purity, easy of understanding, as what God intends for our 
happiness always is ; so, also, was the first worship — a song 
and a prayer natural to a soul joyous, hopeful, and in love 
with its Maker." 

Here the Greek threw up his hands, exclaiming, " Oh ! 
the light deepens within me !" 

" And in me !" said the Hindoo, with equal fervor. 

The Egyptian regarded them benignantly, then went on, 
saying, " Religion is merely the law which binds man to his 
Creator : in purity it has but these elements — God, the Soul, 
and their Mutual Recognition ; out of which, when put in 
practice, spring "Worship, Love, and Reward. This law, like 
all others of divine origin — like that, for instance, which binds 
the earth to the sun — was perfected in the beginning by its 
Author. Such, my brothers, was the religion of the first 
family ; such was the religion of our father Mizraim, who 
could not have been blind to the formula of creation, no- 
where so discernible as in the first faith and the earliest wor- 
ship. Perfection is God ; simplicity is perfection. The curse 
of curses is that men will not let truths like these alone." 

He stopped, as if considering in what manner to continue. 

" Many nations have loved the sweet waters of the Nile," 



24 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

he said next ; " the Ethiopian, the Pali-Putra, the Hebrew, 
the Assyrian, the Persian, the Macedonian, the Roman — of 
whom ^1, except the Hebrew, have at one time or another 
been its masters. So much coming and going of peoples 
corrupted the old Mizraimic faith. The Valley of Palms be- 
came a Valley of Gods. The Supreme One was divided into 
eight, each personating a creative principle in nature, with 
Ammon-Re at the head. Then Isis and Osiris, and their 
circle, representing water, fire, air, and other forces, were in- 
vented. Still the multiplication went on until we had an- 
other order, sugge^ed by human qualities, such as strength, 
knowledge, love, and the like." 

" In all which there was the old folly !" cried the Greeks 
impulsively. " Only the things out of reach remain as they 
came to us." 

The Egyptian bowed, and proceeded : 

" Yet a little further, O my brethren, a little further, be- 
fore I come to myself. What we go to will seem all the 
holier of comparison with what is and has been. The rec- 
ords show that Mizraim found the Nile in possession of 
the Ethiopians, who were spread thence through the African 
desert; a people of rich, fantastic genius, wholly given to the 
worship of nature. The poetic Persian sacrificed to the sun, 
as the completest image of Ormuzd, his God ; the devout 
children of the far East carved their deities out of wood and 
ivory ; but the Ethiopian, without writing, without books, 
without mechanical faculty of any kind, quieted his soul by 
the worship of animals, birds, and insects, holding the cat 
sacred to Re, the bull to Isis, the beetle to Pthah. A long 
struggle against their rude faith ended in its adoption as the 
religion of the new empire. Then rose the mighty monu- 
ments that cumber the river-bank and the desert — obelisk, 
labyrinth, pyramid, and tomb of king, blent with tomb of 
crocodile. Into such deep debasement, O brethren, the sons 
of the Aryan fell 1" 

Here, for the first time, the calmness of the Egyptian for- 
sook him : though his countenance remained impassive, his 
voice gave way. 

"Do not too much despise my countrymen," he began 
again. " They did not all forget God. I said awhile ago. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 25 

you may remember, that to papyri we intrusted all the se- 
crets of our religion except one ; of that I will now tell you. 
We had as king once a certain Pharaoh, who lent himself 
to all manner of changes and additions. To establish the 
new system, he strove to drive the old entirely out of mind. 
The Hebrews then dwelt with us as slaves. They clung to 
their God; and when the persecution became intolerable, 
they were delivered in a manner never to be forgotten. I 
speak from the records now. Mosche, himself a Hebrew, 
came to the palace, and demanded permission for the slaves, 
then millions in number, to leave the country. The demand 
was in the name of the Lord God of Israel. Pharaoh re- 
fused. Hear what followed. First, all the wal^r, that in 
the lakes and rivers, like that in the wells and vessels, turn- 
ed to blood. Yet the monarch refused. Then frogs came 
up and covered all the land. Still he was firm. Then Mo- 
sche threw ashes in the air, and a plague attacked the Egyp- 
tians. Next, all the cattle, except of the Hebrews, were 
struck dead. Locusts devoured the green things of the val- 
ley. At noon the day was turned into a darkness so thick 
that lamps would not bum. Finally, in the night all the 
first-bom of the Egyptians died ; not even Pharaoh's escaped. 
Then he yielded. But when the Hebrews were gone, he 
followed them with his army. At the last moment, the sea 
was divided, so that the fugitives passed it dry-shod. When 
the pursuers drove in after them, the waves mshed back, 
and drowned — horse, foot, charioteers, and king. You 
spoke of revelation, my Gaspar — ^" 

The blue eyes of the Greek sparkled. 

" I had the story from the Jew," he cried. "You con- 
firm it, O Balthasar !" 

" Yes, but through me Egypt speaks, not Mosch6. I in- 
terpret the marbles. The priests of that time wrote in their 
way what they witnessed, and the revelation has lived. So 
I come to the one unrecorded secret. In my country, 
brethren, we have, from the day of the unfortunate Pharaoh, 
always had two religions — one private, the other public; 
one of many gods, practised by the people; the other of 
one God, cherished only by the priesthood. Rejoice with 
me, O brothers! All the trampling by the many nations, 



26 BEX-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

all the harrowing by kings, all the inventions of enemies, 
all the changes of time, have been in vain. Like a seed un- 
der the mountains waiting its hour, the glorious Truth has 
lived ; and this — this is its day !" 

The wasted frame of the Hindoo trembled with delight, 
and the Greek cried aloud, 

" It seems to me the very desert is singing." 

From a gurglet of water near-by the f^yptian took a 
draught, and proceeded: 

*^ I was born at Alexandria, a prince and a priest, and 
had the education usual to my class. But very early I be- 
came discontented. Part of the faith imposed was that 
after death, upon the destruction of the body, the soul at 
once began its former progression from the lowest up to 
humanity, the highest and last existence ; and that without 
reference to conduct in the mortal life. When I heard of 
the Persian's Realm of Light, his Paradise across the bridge 
Chinevat, where only the good go, the thought haunted me ; 
insomuch that in the day, as in the night, I brooded over 
the comparative ideas Eternal Transmigration and Eternal 
Life in Heaven. If, as my teacher taught, God was just, 
why was there no distinction between the good and the 
bad ? At length it became clear to me, a certainty, a cor- 
ollary of the law to which I reduced pure religion, that 
death was only the point of separation at which the wicked 
are left or lost, and the faithful rise to a higher life ; not 
the nirvana of Buddha, or the negative rest of Brahma, O 
Melchior ; nor the better condition in hell, which is all of 
Heaven allowed by the Olympic faith, O Gaspar ; but life 
— life active, joyous, everlasting — Lifb with God! The 
discovery led to another inquiry. Why should the Truth 
be longer kept a secret for the selfish solace of the priest- 
hood ? The reason for the suppression was gone. Philos- 
ophy had at least brought us toleration. In iEgypt we had 
Rome instead of Rameses. One day, in the Brucheium, the 
most splendid and crowded quarter of Alexandria, I arose 
and preached. The East and West contributed to my au- 
dience. Students going to the Library, priests from the 
Serapeion, idlers from the Museum, patrons of the race- 
coarse, countrymen from the Rhacotis — a multitude — stop- 



BEN-HITR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 27 

ped to hear me. I preached God, the Soul, Right and 
Wrong, and Heaven, the reward of a virtuous life. You, 
O Melchior, were stoned ; my auditors first wondered, then 
laughed. I tried again; they pelted me with epigrams, 
covered my God with ridicule, and darkened my Heaven 
with mockery. Not to linger needlessly, I fell before them." 

The Hindoo here drew a long sigh, as he said, "The 
enemy of man is man, my brother." 

Balthasar lapsed into silence. 

"I gave much thought to finding the cause of my fail- 
ure, and at last succeeded," he said, upon beginning again. 
" Up the river, a day's journey from the city, there is a 
village of herdsmen and gardeners. I took a boat and 
went there. In the evening I called the people together, 
men and women, the poorest of the poor. I preached to 
them exactly as I had preached in the Brucheium. They 
did not laugh. Next evening I spoke again, and they be- 
lieved and rejoiced, and carried the news abroad. At the 
third meeting a society was formed for prayer. I returned 
to the city then. Drifting down the river, under the stars, 
which never seemed so bright and so near, I evolved this 
lesson : To begin a reform, go not into the places of the 
great and rich ; go rather to those whose cups of happiness 
are empty — to the poor and humble. And then I laid a 
plan and devoted my life. As a first step, I secured my 
vast property, so that the income would be certain, and al- 
ways at call for the relief of the suffering. From that day, 
O brethren, I travelled up and down the Nile, in the villages, 
and to all the tribes, preaching One God, a righteous life, 
and reward in Heaven. I have done good — it does not be- 
come me to say how much. I also know that part of th^ 
world to be ripe for the reception of Him we go to find." 

A flush suffused the swarthy cheek of the speaker ; but 
he overcame the feeling, and continued : 

"The years so given, O my brothers, were troubled by 
one thought — When I was gone, what would become of the 
cause I had started ? Was it to end with me ? I had dreamed 
many times of organization as a fitting crown for my 
work. Tq hide nothing from you, I had tried to effect it, 
and failed. Brethren, the world is now in the condition that, 



28 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

to restore the old Mizraimic faith, the reformer must have 
a more than haman sanction ; he must not merely come in 
God's name, he must have the proofs subject to his word; 
he must demonstrate all he says, even God. So preoccupied 
is the mind with myths and systems ; so much do false dei- 
ties crowd every place-r-earth, air, sky ; so have they be- 
come of everything a part, that return to the first religion 
can only be along bloody paths, through fields of persecu- 
tion ; that is to say, the converts must be willing to die 
rather than recant. And who in this age can carry the 
faith of men to such a point but God himself ? To redeem 
the race — I do not mean to destroy it — ^to redeem the race, 
he must make himself once more manifest ; he must come 

IN PERSON." 

Intense emotion seized the three. 

" Are we not going to find him V exclaimed the Greek. 

" You understand why I failed in the attempt to organ- 
ize," said the Eg3rptian, when the spell was passed. *'I 
had not the sanction. To know that my work must be lost 
made me intolerably wretched. I believed in prayer ; and 
to make my appeals pure and strong, like you, my brethren, 
I went out of the beaten ways, I went where man had not 
been, where only God was. Above the fifth cataract, above 
the meeting of rivers in Sennar, up the Bahr el Abiad, into 
the far unsown of Africa, I went There, in the morning, 
a mountain blue as the sky fiings a cooling shadow wide 
over the western desert, and, with its cascades of melted 
snow, feeds a broad lake nestling at its base on the east. 
The lake is the mother of the great river. For a year and 
more the mountain gave me a home. The fruit of the palm 
fed my body, prayer my spirit One night I walked in the 
orchard close by the little sea. * The world is dying. When 
wilt thou come ? Why may I not see the redemption, O 
God V So I prayed. The glassy water was sparkling with 
stars. One of them seemed to leave its place, and rise to 
the surface, where it became a brilliancy burning to the 
eyes. Then it moved towards me, and stood over my head, 
apparently in hand's reach. I fell down and hid ray face. 
A voice, not of the earth, said, * Thy good works have con- 
quered. Blessed art thou, O son of Mizraim 1 The re- 



BEN.HX7R: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 29 

demption cometh. With two others, from the remotenesses 
of the world, thou shalt see the Saviour, and testify for him. 
In the morning arise, and go meet them. And when ye 
have all come to the holy city of Jenisalem, ask of the peo- 
ple, Where is he that is bom King of the Jews? for we 
have seen his star in the East, and are sent to worship him. 
Pat all thy trust in the Spirit which will guide thee.' 

*' And the light became an inward illumination not to be 
doubted, and has stayed with me, a governor and a guide. 
It led me down the river to Memphis, where I made ready 
for the desert. I bought my camel, and came hither with- 
out rest, by way of Suez and Eufileh, and up through the 
lands of Moab and Ammon. God is with us, O my breth- 
ren !" 

He paused, and thereupon, with a prompting not their 
own, they all arose, and looked at each other. 

"I said there was a purpose in the particularity with 
which we described our peoples and their histories," so the 
Egyptian proceeded. " He we go to find was called * Bang of 
the Jews ;' by that name we are bidden to ask for him. But, 
now that we have met, and heard from each other, we may 
know him to be the Redeemer, not of the Jews alone, but 
of all the nations of the earth. The patriarch who survived 
the Flood had with him three sons, and their families, by 
whom the world was repeopled. From the old Aryana- 
Ya^jo, the well-remembered Region of Delight in the heart 
of Asia, they parted. India and the far East received the 
children of the first; the descendants of the youngest, 
through the North, streamed into Europe ; those of the sec- 
ond overflowed the deserts about the Red Sea, passing into 
Africa; and though most of the latter are yet dwellers in 
shifting tents, some of them became builders along the Nile." 

By a simultaneous impulse the three joined hands. 

"Could anything be more divinely ordered?" Balthasar 
continued. " When we have found the Lord, the brothers, 
and all the generations that have succeeded them, will kneel 
to him in homage with us. And when we part to go our 
separate ways, the world will have learned a new lesson — 
that Heaven may be won, not by the sword, not by human 
wisdom, but by Faith, Love, and Good Works." 



30 BEX-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

There was silence, broken by sighs and sanctified with 
tears ; for the joy that filled them might not be stayed. It 
was the unspeakable joy of souls on the shores of the River 
of Life, resting with the Redeemed in God's presence. 

Presently their hands fell apart, and together they went 
out of the tent. The desert was still as the sky. The sun 
was sinking fast The camels slept. 

A little while after, the tent was struck, and, with the re- 
mains of the repast, restored to the cot; then the friends 
mounted, and set out single file, led by the Egyptian. Their 
course was due west, into the chilly night. The camels 
swung forward in steady trot, keeping the line and the in- 
tervals so exactly that those following seemed to tread in 
the tracks of the leader. The riders spoke not once. 

By-and-by the moon came up. And as the three tall, 
white figures sped, with soundless tread, through the opales- 
cent light, they appeared like spectres flying from hateful 
shadows. Suddenly, in the air before them, not farther up 
than a low hill-top, flared a lambent flame ; as they looked 
at it, the apparition contracted into a focus of dazzling lus- 
tre. Their hearts beat fast ; their souls thrilled ; and they 
shduted as with one voice, '^ The Star ! the Star ! God is 
with us !" 



Chapter VI. 

In an aperture of the western wall of Jerusalem hang the 
" oaken valves " called the Bethlehem or Joppa Gate. The 
area outside of them is one of the notable places of the city. 
Long before David coveted Zion, there was a citadel there. 
When at last the son of Jesse ousted the Jebusite, and be- 
gan to build, the site of the citadel became the nortbwest 
comer of his new wall, defended by a tower mucb more 
imposing than the old one. The location of the gate, how- 
ever, was not disturbed, for the reasons, most likely, that 
the roads which met and merged in front of it could not 
well be transferred to any other point, while the area outside 
had become a recognized market-place. In Solomon's day 
there was great traffic at the locality, shared in by traders 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 31 

from Egypt, and the rich dealers from Tyre and Sidon. 
Nearly three thousand years have passed, and yet a kind of 
commerce clings to the spot. A pilgrim wanting a pin or 
a pistol, a encumber or a camel, a house or a horse, a loan 
or a lentil, a date or a dragoman, a melon or a man, a dove 
or a donkey, has only to inquire for the article at the Joppa 
Gate. Sometimes the scene is quite animated, and then it 
suggests, What a place the old market must have been in 
the days of Herod the Builder 1 And to that period and 
that market the reader is now to be transferred. 

Following the Hebrew system, the meeting of the wise 
men described in the preceding chapters took place in the 
afternoon of the twenty-fifth day of the third month of the 
year ; that is to say, on the twenty-fifth day of December. 
The year was the second of the 193d Olympiad, or the '747th 
of Rome; the sixty-seventh of Herod the Great, and the 
thirty-fifth of his reign ; the fourth before the beginning of 
the Christian era. The hours of the day, by Judean cus- 
tom, begin with the sun, the first hour being the first aft^r 
sunrise; so, to be precise, the market at the Joppa Gate 
during the first hour of the day stated was in full session, 
and very lively. The massive valves had been wide open 
since dawn. Business, always aggressive, had pushed 
through the arched entrance into a narrow lane and court, 
which, passing by the walls of the great tower, conducted 
on into the city. As Jerusalem is in the hill country, the 
morning air on this occasion was not a little crisp. The 
rays of the sun, with their promise of warmth, lingered 
provokingly far up on the battlements and turrets of the 
great piles about, down from which fell the crooning of 
pigeons, and the whir of the flocks coming and going. 

As a passing acquaintance with the people of the Holy 
City, strangers as well as residents, will be necessary to an 
understanding of some of the pages which follow, it will be 
well to stop at the gate and pass the scene in review. Bet- 
ter opportunity will not offer to get sight of the populace 
who will afterwhile go forward in a mood very different 
from that which now possesses them. 

The scene is at first one of utter confusion— -confusion 
of action, sounds, colors, and things. It is especially 60 in 



32 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHKIST. 

the lane and court. The gn^ound there is paved with broad 
unshaped flags, from which each cry and jar and hoof- 
stamp arises to swell the medley that rings and roars up 
between the solid impending walls. A little mixing with 
the throng, however, a little familiarity with the business 
going on, will make analysis possible. 

Here stands a donkey, dozing under panniers full of len- 
tils, beans, onions, and cucumbers, brought fresh from the 
gardens and terraces of Galilee. When not engaged in 
serving customers, the master, in a voice which only the 
initiated can understand, cries his stock. Nothing can be 
simpler than his costume — sandals, and an unbleached, un- 
dyed blanket, crossed over one shoulder and girt round 
the waist. Near-by, and far more imposing and grotesque, 
though scarcely as patient as the donkey, kneels a camel, 
raw-boned, rough, and gray, with long shaggy tufts of fox- 
colored hair under its throat, neck, and body, and a load of 
boxes and baskets curiously arranged upon an enormous 
saddle. The owner is an Egyptian, small, lithe, and of a 
complexion which has borrowed a good deal from the dust 
of the roads and the sands of the desert. He wears a 
faded tarbooshes a loose gown, sleeveless, unbelted, and drop- 
ping from the neck to the knee. His feet are bare. The 
camel, restless under the load, groans and occasionally shows 
his teeth ; but the man paces indifferently to and fro, hold' 
ing the driving - strap, and all the time advertising his 
fruits fresh from the orchards of the Eedron — ^grapes, dates, 
figs, apples, and pomegranates. 

At the corner where the lane opens out into the court, 
some women sit with their backs against the gray stones 
of the wall. Their dress is that common to the humbler 
classes of the country — a Hnen frock extending the full 
length of the person, loosely gathered at the waist ; and a 
veil or wimple broad enough, after covering the head, to 
wrap the shoulders. Their merchandise is contained in a 
number of earthen jars, such as are still used in the East 
for bringing water from the wells, and some leathern bottles. 
Among the jars and bottles, rolling upon the stony floor, 
regardless of the crowd and cold, often in danger but never 
hurt, play half a dozen half-naked children ; their brown bod- 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 33 

ies, jetty eyes, and thick black hair attesting the blood of 
Israel. Sometimes, from under the wimples, the mothers 
look ap, and in the vernacular modestly bespeak their trade : 
in the bottles "honey of grapes," in the jars "strong drink." 
Their entreaties are usually lost in the general uproar, and 
they fare illy against the many competitors : brawny fel- 
lows with bare legs, dirty tunics, and long beards, going 
about with bottles lashed to their backs, and shouting, 
" Honey of wine I Grapes of En-Gedi !" When a customer 
halts one of them, round comes the bottle, and, upon lifting 
the thumb from the nozzle, out into the ready cup gushes 
the deep-red blood of the luscious berry. 

Scarcely less blatant are the dealers in birds — doves, ducks, 
and frequently the singing bulbul, or nightingale, most fre- 
quently pigeons ; and buyers, receiving them from the nets, 
seldom fail to think of the perilous life of the catchers, 
bold climbers of the cliffs; now hanging with hand and foot 
to the face of the crag, now swinging in a basket far down 
the mountain fissure. 

Blent with peddlers of jewelry — sharp men cloaked in 
scarlet and blue, top-heavy under prodigious white turbans, 
and fully conscious of the power there is in the lustre of a 
ribbon and the incisive gleam of gold, whether in bracelet 
or necklace, or in rings for the finger or the nose — and 
with peddlers of household utensils, and with dealers in wear- 
ing-apparel, and with retailers of unguents for anointing the 
person, and with hucksters of all articles, fanciful as well as 
of need, hither and thither, tugging at halters and ropes, 
now screaming, now coaxing, toil the venders of animals — 
donkeys, horses, calves, sheep, bleating kids, and awkward 
camels; animals of every kind except the outlawed swine. 
All these are there ; not singly, as descnbed, but many times 
repeated ; not in one place, but everywhere in the market. 

Turning from this scene in the lane and court, this glance 
at the sellers and their commodities, the reader has need to 
give attention, in the next place, to visitors and buyers, for 
which the best studies will be found outside the gates, 
where the spectacle is quite as varied and animated ; in- 
deed, it may be more so, for there are superadded the 
effects of tent, booth, and sook, greater space, larger crowd, 
8 



34 BEN-nUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

more unqualified freedom, and the glory of the Eastern 
sunshine. 



Chapter VII. 

Let us take our stand by the gate, just out of the edge 
of the currents — one flowing in, the other out — and use 
our eyes and ears awhile. 

In good time ! Here come two men of a most note- 
worthy class. 

" Gods ! How cold it is !" says one of them, a powerful 
figure in armor ; on his head a brazen helmet, on his body 
a shining breastplate and skirts of mail. ^^ How cold it is ! 
Dost thou remember, my Caius, that vault in the Comiti- 
um at home which the flamens say is the entrance to the 
lower world ? By Pluto, I could stand there this morning, 
long enough at least to get warm again !" 

The party addressed drops the hood of his military 
cloak, leaving bare his head and face, and replies, with an 
ironic smile, " The helmets of the legions which conquered 
Mark Antony were full of Gallic snow ; but thou — ah, my 
poor friend ! — thou hast just come from Egypt, bringing its 
summer in thy blood." 

And with the last word they disappear through the en- 
trance. Though they had been silent, the armor and the 
sturdy step would have published them Roman soldiers. 

From the throng a Jew comes next, meagre of frame, 
round-shouldered, and wearing a coarse brown robe ; over 
his eyes and face, and down his back, hangs a mat of long, 
uncombed hair. He is alone. Those who meet him laugh, 
if they do not worse ; for he is a Nazarite, one of a de- 
spised sect which rejects the books of Moses, devotes itself 
to abhorred vows, and goes unshorn while the vows endure. 

As we watch his retiring figure, suddenly there is a com- 
motion in the crowd, a parting quickly to the right and 
left, with exclamations sharp and decisive. Then the cause 
comes — a man, Hebrew in feature and dress. The mantle of 
snow-white linen, held to his head by cords of yellow silk, 
flows free over his shoulders ; his robe is richly embroid- 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 35 

ered ; a red sash with fringes of gold wraps his waist several 
times. His demeanor is calm ; he even smiles upon those 
who, with such rude haste, make room for him. A leper ? 
No, he is only a Samaritan. The shrinking crowd, if asked, 
would say he is a mongrel — an Assyrian — whose touch of 
the robe is pollution ; from whom, consequently, an Israel- 
ite, though dying, might not accept life. In fact, the feud 
is not of blood. When David set his throne here on Mount 
Zion, with only Judah to support him, the ten tribes betook 
themselves to Shechem, a city much older, and, at that date, 
infinitely richer in holy memories. The final union of the 
tribes did not settle the dispute thus begun. The Samari- 
tans clung to their tabernacle on Gerizim, and, while main- 
taining its superior sanctity, laughed at the irate doctors in 
Jerusalem. Time brought no assuagement of the hate. 
Under Herod, conversion to the faith was open to all the 
world except the Samaritans; they alone were absolutely 
and forever shut out from communion with Jews. 

As the Samaritan goes in under the arch of the gate, out 
come three men so unlike all whom we have yet seen that 
they fix our gaze, whether we will or not. They arc of un- 
usual stature and immense brawn ; their eyes are blue, and 
80 fair is their complexion that the blood shines through 
the skin like blue pencilling ; their hair is light and short ; 
their heads^ small and round, rest squarely upon necks co- 
lumnar as the trunks of trees. Woollen tunics, open at the 
breast, sleeveless and loosely girt, drape their bodies, leaving 
bare arms and legs of such development that they at once 
suggest the arena ; and when thereto we add their careless, 
confident, insolent manner, we cease to wonder that the peo- 
ple give them way, and stop after they have passed to look 
at them again. They are gladiators — wrestlers, runners, 
boxers, swordsmen ; professionals unknown in Judea before 
the coming of the Roman ; fellows who, what time they 
are not in training, may be seen strolling through the king's 
gardens or sitting with the guards at the palace gates ; or 
possibly they are visitors from Cass^rea, Sebaste, or Jericho ; 
in which Herod, more Greek than Jew, and with all a Ro- 
man's love of games and bloody spectacles, has built vast 
theatres, and now Jceeps schools of fighting-men, drawn, as 



36 BEX-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

is the custom, from the Gallic provinces, or the Slavic tribes 
on the Danube. 

" By Bacchus !" says one of them, drawing his clenched 
Land to his shoulder, " their skulls are not thicker than egg- 
shells." 

The brutal look which goes with the gesture disgusts us, 
and we turn happily to something more pleasant. 

Opposite us is a fruit-stand. The proprietor has a bald 
bead, a long face, and a nose like the beak of a hawk. He 
sits upon a carpet spread upon the dust ; the wall is at his 
back ; overhead hangs a scant curtain ; around him, within 
hand's reach and arranged upon little stools, lie osier boxes 
full of almonds, grapes, figs, and pomegranates. To him now 
comes one at whom we cannot help looking, though for an- 
other reason than that which fixed our eyes upon the glad- 
iators : he is really beautiful — a beautiful Greek. Around 
his temples, holding the waving hair, is a crown of myrtle, 
to which still cling the pale flowers and half-ripe berries. 
His tunic, scarlet in color, is of the softest woollen fabric ; 
below the girdle of buff leather, which is clasped in front 
by a fantastic device of shining gold, the skirt drops to the 
knee in folds heavy with embroidery of the same royal met- 
al ; a scarf, also woollen, and of mixed white and yellow, 
crosses his throat and falls trailing at his back ; his arms 
and legs, where exposed, are white as ivory, and of the pol- 
ish impossible except by perfect treatment with bath, oil, 
brushes, and pincers. 

The dealer, keeping his seat, bends forward, and throws 
his hands up until they meet in front of him, palm down- 
wards and fingers extended. 

"What hast thou, this morning, O son of Paphos?" 
says the young Greek, looking at the boxes rather than at 
the Cypriote. " I am hungry. What hast thou for break- 
fast?" 

" Fruits from the Pedius — genuine — such as the singers 
of Antioch take of mornings to restore the waste of their 
voices," the dealer answers, in a querulous nasal tone. 

" A ^g, but not one of thy best, for the singers of Anti- 
och !" says the Greek. " Thou art a worshipper of Aphro- 
dite, and so am I, as the myrtle I wear proves ; therefore I 



BEJS'-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 37 

tell thee their voices have the chill of a Caspian wind. Seest 
thou this girdle ? — a gift of the mighty Salome — " 

" The king's sister !" exclaims the Cypriote, with another 
salaam. 

" And of royal taste and divine judgment. And why not ? 
She is more Greek than the king. But — my breakfast I 
Here is thy money — red coppers of Cyprus. Give me grapes, 
and — " 

" Wilt thou not take the dates also ?" 

" No, I am not an Arab." 

" Nor figs r 

" That would be to make me a Jew. No, nothing but the 
grapes. Never waters mixed so sweetly as the blood of the 
Greek and the blood of the grape." 

The singer in the grimed and seething market, with all 
his airs of the court, is a vision not easily shut out of mind 
by such as see him ; as if for the purpose, however,, a per- 
son follows him challenging all our wonder. He comes up 
the road slowly, his face towards the ground ; at intervals 
he stops, crosses his hands upon his breast, lengthens his 
countenance, and turns his eyes towards heaven, as if about 
to break into prayer. Nowhere, except in Jerusalem, can 
such a character be found. On his forehead, attached to 
the band which keeps the mantle in place, projects a leath- 
ern case, square in form ; another similar case is tied by a 
thong to the left arm ; the borders of his robe are decorated 
with deep fringe ; and by such signs — the phylacteries, the 
enlarged borders of the garment, and the savor of intense 
holiness pervading the whole man — we know him to be a 
Pharisee, one of an organization (in religion a sect, in pol- 
itics a party) whose bigotry and power will shortly bring the 
world to grief. 

The densest of the throng outside the gate covers the road 
leading off to Joppa. Turning from the Pharisee, we are 
attracted by some parties who, as subjects of study, oppor- 
tunely separate themselves from the motley crowd. First 
among them a man of very noble appearance — clear, health- 
ful complexion ; bright black eyes ; beard long and flowing, 
and rich with unguents ; apparel well-fitting, costly, and suit- 
able for the season. He carries a staff, and wears, swspeni^dL 



38 BEN-HUK: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

by a cord from his neck, a large golden seal. Several ser- 
vants attend him, some of them with short swords stuck 
through their sashes ; when they address him, it is with the 
utmost deference. The rest of the party consists of two 
Arabs of the pure desert stock; thin, wiry men, deeply 
bronzed, and with hollow cheeks, and eyes of almost evil 
brightness ; on their heads red tarbooshes ; over their ahasy 
and wrapping the left shoulder and the body so as to leave 
the right arm free, brown woollen kaicks, or blankets. There 
is loud chaffering ; for the Arabs are leading horses and try- 
ing to sell them ; and, in their eagerness, they speak in high, 
shrill voices. The courtly person leaves the talking mostly 
to his servants ; occasionally he answers with much dignity ; 
directly, seeing the Cypriote, he stops and buys some figs. 
And when the whole party has passed the portal, close after 
the Pharisee, if we betake ourselves to the dealer in fruits, 
he will tell, with a wonderful salaam, that the stranger is a 
Jew, one of the princes of the city, who has travelled, and 
learned the difference between the common grapes of Syria 
and those of Cyprus, so surpassingly rich with the dews of 
the sea. 

And so, till towards noon, sometimes later, the steady cur- 
rents of business habitually flow in and out of the Joppa 
Gate, carrying with them every variety of character; in- 
cluding representatives of all the tribes of Israel, all the sects 
among whom the ancient faith has been parcelled and re- 
fined away, all the religious and social divisions, all the ad- 
venturous rabble who, as children of art and ministers of 
pleasure, riot in the prodigalities of Herod, and all the peo- 
ples of note at any time compassed by the Caesars and their 
predecessors, especially those dwelling within the circuit of 
the Mediterranean. 

In other words, Jerusalem, rich in sacred history, richer 
in connection with sacred prophecies — the Jerusalem of Sol- 
omon, in which silver was as stones, and cedars as the syca- 
mores of the vale — had come to be but a copy of Rome, a 
centre of unholy practices, a seat of pagan power. A Jew- 
ish king one day put on priestly garments, and went into 
the Holy of Holies of the first temple to offer incense, and 
he came out a leper ; but in the time of which we are read- 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 39 

ing, Pompey entered Herod's temple and the same Holy of 
Holies, and came out without harm, finding but an empty 
chamber, and of God not a sign. 



Chapter VHI. 

The reader is now besought to return to the court de- 
scribed as part of the market at the Joppa Gate. It was the 
third hour of the day, and many of the people had gone 
away ; yet the press continued without apparent abatement. 
Of the new-comers, there was a group over by the south 
wall, consisting of a man, a woman, and a donkey, which 
requires extended notice. 

The man stood by the animal's head, holding a leading- 
strap, and leaning upon a stick which seemed to have been 
chosen for the double purpose of goad and staff. His dress 
was like that of the ordinary Jews around him, except that 
it had an appearance of newness. . The mantle dropping from 
his head, and the robe or frock which clothed his person 
from neck to heel, were probably the garments he was ac- 
customed to wear to the synagogue on Sabbath days. His 
features were exposed, and they told of fifty years of life, 
a surmise confirmed by the gray that streaked his otherwise 
black beard. He looked around him with the half-curious, 
half-vacant stare of a stranger and provincial. 

The donkey ate leisurely from an armful of green grass, 
of which there was an abundance in the market. In its 
sleepy content, the brute did not admit of disturbance from 
the bustle and clamor about ; no more was it mindful of the 
woman sitting upon its back in a cushioned pillion. An 
outer robe of dull woollen stuff completely covered her per- 
son, while a white wimple veiled her head and neck. Once 
in a while, impelled by curiosity to see or hear something 
passing, she drew the wimple aside, but so slightly that the 
face remained invisible. 

At length the man was accosted. 

"Are you not Joseph of Nazareth?" 

The speaker was standing close by. 



40 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

"I am 80 called," answered Joseph, turning gravely 
around. " And you — ah, peace be unto you ! my friend, 
Kabbi Samuel !" 

"The same give I back to you." The Rabbi paused, 
looking at the woman, then added, " To you, and unto your 
house and all your helpers, be peace." 

With the last word, he placed one hand upon his breast, 
and inclined his head to the woman, who, to see him, had 
by this time withdrawn the wimple enough to show the face 
of one but a short time out of girlhood. Thereupon the 
acquaintances grasped right hands, as if to carry them to 
their lips ; at the last moment, however, the clasp was let 
go, and each kissed his own hand, then put its palm upon 
his forehead. 

" There is so little dust upon your garments," the Rabbi 
said, familiarly, " that I infer you passed the night in this 
city of our fathers." 

" No," Joseph replied, " as we could only make Bethany 
before the night came, we stayed in the khan there, and 
took the road again at daybreak." 

" The journey before you is long, then — not to Joppa, I 
hope." 

" Only to Bethlehem." 

The countenance of the Rabbi, theretofore open and 
friendly, became lowering and sinister, and he cleared his 
throat with a growl instead of a cough. 

" Yes, yes — I see," he said. " You were born in Beth- 
lehem, and wend thither now, with your daughter, to be 
counted for taxation, as ordered by Caesar. The children 
of Jacob are as the tribes in Egypt were — only they have 
neither a Moses nor a Joshua. How are the mighty fallen !" 

Joseph answered, without change of posture or counte- 
nance, 

" The woman is not my daughter." 

But the Rabbi clung to the political idea; and he went 
on, without noticing the explanation, " "What are the Zealots 
doing down in Galilee ?" 

" I am a carpenter, and Nazareth is a village," said Jo- 
seph, cautiously. " The street on which my bench stands is 
not a road leading to any city. Hewing wood and sawing 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 41 

plank leave me no time to take part in the disputes of 
parties." 

" But you are a Jew," said the Rabbi, earnestly. " You 
are a Jew, and of the line of David. It is not possible you 
can find pleasure in the payment of any tax except the 
shekel given by ancient custom to Jehovah." 

Joseph held his peace. 

"I do not complain," his friend continued, "of the 
amount of the tax — a denarius is a trifle. Oh no I The im- 
position of the tax is the offence. And, besides, what, is 
paying it but submission to tyranny ? Tell me, is it true 
that Judas claims to be the Messiah ? You live in the midst 
of his followers." 

"I have heard his followers say he was the Messiah," 
Joseph replied. 

At this point the wimple was drawn aside, and for an in- 
stant the whole face of the woman was exposed. The eyes 
of the Rabbi wandered that way, and he had time to see a 
countenance of rare beauty, kindled by a look of intense in- 
terest ; then a blush overspread her cheeks and brow, and 
the veil was returned to its place. 

The poHtician forgot his subject. 

" Your daughter is comely," he said, speaking lower. 

" She is not my daughter," Joseph repeated. 

The curiosity of the Rabbi was aroused ; seeing which, 
the Nazarene hastened to say further, " She is the child of 
Joachim and Anna of Bethlehem, of whom you have at least 
heard ; for they were of great repute — " 

" Yes," remarked the Rabbi, deferentially, " I know them. 
They were lineally descended from David. I knew them 
well." 

"Well, they are dead now," the Nazarene proceeded. 
" They died in Nazareth. Joachim was not rich, yet he left 
a house and garden to be divided between his daughters 
Marian and Mary. This is one of them ; and to save her 
portion of the property, the law required her to marry her 
next of kin. She is now my wife." 

" And you were — " 

" Her uncle." 

" Yes, yes 1 And as you were both born in Bethlehem, 



42 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

the Roman compels you to take her there with you to be 
also counted." 

The Rabbi clasped his hands, and looked indignantly to 
heaven, exclaiming, " The God of Israel still lives ! The 
vengeance is his !" 

With that he turned and abruptly departed. A stranger 
near-by, observing Joseph's amazement, said, quietly, " Rabbi 
Samuel is a zealot. Judas himself is not more fierce." 

Joseph, not wishing to talk with the man, appeared not 
to hear, and busied himself gathering in a little heap the 
grass which the donkey had tossed abroad; after which he 
leaned upon his staff again, and waited. 

In another hour the party passed out the gate, and, turn- 
ing to the left, took the road to Bethlehem. The descent 
into the valley of Hi^mom was quite broken, garnished here 
and there with straggling wild olive-trees. Carefully, ten- 
derly, the Nazarene walked by the woman's side, leading- 
strap in hand. On their left, reaching to the south and 
east round Mount Zion, rose the city wall, and on their right 
the steep prominences which form the western boundary of 
the valley. 

Slowly they passed the Lower Pool of Gihon, out of which 
the sun was fast driving the lessening shadow of the royal 
hill ; slowly they proceeded, keeping parallel with the aque- 
duct from the Pools of Solomon, until near the site of the 
country-house on what is now called the Hill of Evil Coun- 
sel ; there they began to ascend to the plain of Rephaim. 
The sun streamed garishly over the stony face of the fa- 
mous locality, and under its influence Mary, the daughter of 
Joachim, dropped the wimple entirely, and bared her head. 
Joseph told the story of the Philistines surprised in their 
camp there by David. He was tedious in the narrative, 
speaking with the solemn countenance and lifeless manner 
of a dull man. She did not always hear him. 

Wherever on the land men go, and on the sea ships, the 
face and figure of the Jew are familiar. The physical type 
of the race has always been the same; yet there have been 
some individual variations. " Now he was ruddy, and withal 
of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to." Such 
was the son of Jesse when brought before Samuel. The 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 43 

fancies of men have been ever since ruled by the descrip- 
tion. Poetic license has extended the peculiarities of the 
ancestor to his notable descendants. So all our ideal Solo- 
mons have fair faces, and hair and beard chestnut in the 
shade, and of the tint of gold in the sun. Such, we are also 
made believe, were the locks of Absalom the beloved. And, 
in the absence of authentic history, tradition has dealt no 
less lovingly by her whom we are now following down to 
the native city of the ruddy king. 

She was not more than fifteen. Her form, voice, and 
manner belonged to the period of transition from girlhood. 
Her face was perfectly oval, her complexion more pale than 
fair. The nose was faultless ; the lips, slightly parted, were 
full and ripe, giving to the lines of the mouth warmth, ten- 
derness, and trust ; the eyes were blue and large, and shaded 
by drooping lids and long lashes ; and, in harmony with all, 
a flood of golden hair, in the style permitted to Jewish 
brides, fell unconfined down her back to the pillion on which 
she sat. The throat and neck had the downy softness some- 
times seen which leaves the artist in doubt whether it is an 
effect of contour or color. To these charms of feature and 
person were added others more indefinable — an air of purity 
which only the soul can impai*t, and of abstraction natural 
to such as think much of things impalpable. Often, with 
trembling lips, she raised her eyes to heaven, itself not more 
deeply blue ; often she crossed her hands upon her breast, 
as in adoration and prayer ; often she raised her head like 
one listening eagerly for a calling voice. Now and then, 
midst his slow utterances, Joseph turned to look at her, and, 
catching the expression kindling her face as with light, for- 
got his theme, and with bowed head, wondering, plodded on. 

So they skirted the great plain, and at length reached the 
elevation Mar Elias ; from which, across a valley, they be- 
held Bethlehem, the oU, old House of Bread, its white walls 
crowning a ridge, and shining above the brown scumbling 
of leafless orchards. They paused there, and rested, while 
Joseph pointed out the places of sacred renown ; then they 
went down into the valley to the well which was the scene 
of one of the marvellous exploits of David's strong men. 
The narrow space was crowded with people and animals. 



44 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

A fear came upon Joseph — a fear lest, if the town were so 
thronged, there might not be house-room for the gentle 
Mary. Without delay, he hurried on, past the pillar of 
stone marking the tomb of Rachel, up the gardened slope, 
saluting none of the many persons he met on the way, until 
he stopped before the portal of the khan that then stood 
outside'the vDlage gates, near a junction of roads. 



Chapter IX. 

To understand thoroughly what happened to the Naza* 
rene at the khan, the reader must be reminded that Eastern 
inns were different from the inns of the Western world. 
They were called khans, from the Persian, and, in simplest 
form, were fenced enclosures, without house or shed, often 
without a gate or entrance. Their sites were chosen with 
reference to shade, defence, or water. Such were the inns 
that sheltered Jacob when he went to seek a wife in Padan- 
Aram. Their like may be seen at this day in the stopping- 
places of the desert. On the other hand, some of them, 
especially those on the roads between great cities, like Jeru- 
salem and Alexandria, were princely establishments, monu- 
ments to the piety of the kings who built them. In ordi- 
nary, however, they were no more than the house or posses- 
sion of a sheik, in which, as in headquarters, he swayed 
his tribe. Lodging the traveller was the least of their uses ; 
they were markets, factories, forts ; places of assemblage 
and residence for merchants and artisans quite as much as 
places of shelter for belated and wandering wayfarers. 
Within their walls, all the year round, occurred the multi- 
plied daily transactions of a town. 

The singular management of these hostelries was the feat- 
ure likely to strike a Western mind with most force. There 
was no host or hostess ; no clerk, cook, or kitchen ; a stew- 
ard at the gate was all the assertion of government or pro- 
prietorship anywhere visible. Strangers arriving stayed at 
will without rendering account. A consequence of the sys- 
tem was that whoever came had to bring his food and culi- 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 45 

nary outfit with him, or buy them of dealers in the khan. 
The same rule held good as to his bed and bedding, and 
forage for his beasts. Water, rest, shelter, and protection 
were all he looked for from the proprietor, and they were 
gratuities. The peace of synagogues was sometimes broken 
by brawling disputants, but that of the khans never. The 
houses and all their appurtenances were sacred : a well was 
not more so. 

The khan at Bethlehem, before which Joseph and his wife 
stopped, was a good specimen of its class, being neither very 
primitive nor very princely. The building was purely Ori- 
ental ; that is to say, a quadrangular block of rough stones, 
one story high, flat-roofed, externally unbroken by a win- 
dow, and with but one principal entrance — a doorway, 
which was also a gateway, on the eastern side, or front. The 
road ran by the door so near that the chalk dust half cov- 
ered the lintel. A fence of flat rocks, beginning at the 
northeastern corner of the pile, extended many yards down 
the slope to a point from whence it swept westwardly to a 
limestone bluflE ; making what was in the highest degree es- 
sential to a respectable khan — a safe enclosure for animals. 

In a village like Bethlehem, as there was but one sheik, 
there could not well be more than one khan ; and, though 
bom in the place, the Nazarene, from long residence else- 
where, had no daim to hospitality in the town. More- 
over, the enumeration for which he was coming might be 
the work of weeks or months ; Roman deputies in the prov- 
inces were proverbially slow; and to impose himself and 
wife for a period so uncertain upon acquaintances or rela- 
tions was out of the question. So, before he drew nigh the 
great house, while he was yet climbing the slope, in the 
steep places toiling to hasten the donkey, the fear that he 
might not find accommodations in the khan became a pain- 
ful anxiety ; for he found the road thronged with men and 
boys who, with great ado, were taking their cattle, horses, 
and camels to and from the valley, some to water, some to 
the neighboring caves. And when he was come close by, 
his alarm was not allayed by the discovery of a crowd in- 
vesting the door of the establishment, while the enclosure 
adjoining, broad as it was, seemed already full. 



46 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

" We cannot reach the door," Joseph said, in his slow 
way. "Let us stop here, and learn, if we can, what has 
happened." 

The wife, without answering, quietly drew the wimple 
aside. The look of fatigue at first upon her face changed 
to one of interest. She found herself at the edge of an as- 
semblage that could not be other than a matter of curiosity 
to her, although it was common enough at the khans on any 
of the highways which the great caravans were accustomed 
to traverse. There were men on foot, running hither and 
thither, talking shrilly and in all the tongues of Syria ; men 
on horseback screaming to men on camels ; men struggling 
doubtfully with fractious cows and frightened sheep ; men 
peddling bread and wine ; and among the mass a herd of 
boys apparently in chase of a herd of dogs. Everybody and 
everything seemed to be in motion at the same time. Pos- 
sibly the fair spectator was too weary to be long attracted 
by the scene ; in a little while she sighed, and settled down 
on the pillion, and, as if in search of peace and rest, or in 
expectation of some one, looked off to the south, and up to 
the tall cliffs of the Mount of Paradise, then faintly redden- 
ing under the setting sun. 

While she was thus looking, a man pushed his way out 
of the press, and, stopping close by the donkey, faced about 
with an angry brow. The Nazarene spoke to him. 

" As I am what I take you to be, good friend — a son of 
Judah — may I ask the cause of this multitude ?" 

The stranger turned fiercely; but, seeing the solemn 
countenance of Joseph, so in keeping with his deep, slow 
voice and speech, he raised his hand in half-salutation, and 
replied, 

** Peace be to you. Rabbi ! I am a son of Judah, and 
will answer you. I dwell in Beth-Dagon, which, you know, 
is in what used to be the land of the tribe of Dan." 

" On the road to Joppa from Modin," said Joseph. 

" Ah, you have been in Beth-Dagon," the man said, his 
face soiFtening yet more. "What wanderers we of Judah 
are ! I have been away from the ridge — old Ephrath, as our 
father Jacob called it — for many years. When the proc- 
lamation went abroad requiring all Hebrews to be numbered 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 47 

at the cities of their birth — That is my business here, 
Rabbi." 

Joseph's face remained stolid as a mask, while he remark- 
ed, " I have come for that also — I and my wife." 

The stranger glanced at Mary and kept silence. She was 
looking up at the bald top of Gedor. The sun touched her 
upturned face, and filled the violet depths of her eyes ; and 
upon her parted lips trembled an aspiration which could 
not have been to a mortal. For the moment, all the hu- 
manity of her beauty seemed refined away : she was as we 
fancy they are who sit close by the gate in the transfigur- 
ing light of Heaven. The Beth-Dagonite saw the original 
of what, centuries after, came as a vision of genius to San- 
zio the divine, and left him immortal. 

"Of what was I speaking? Ahj I remember. I was 
about to say that when I heard of the order to come here, 
I was angry. Then I thought of the old hill, and the town, 
and the valley falling away into the depths of Cedron ; of 
the vines and orchards, and fields of grain, unfailing since 
the days of Boaz and Ruth ; of the familiar mountains — 
Gedor here, Gibeah yonder. Mar Elias there — which, when 
I was a boy, were the walls of the world to me ; and I for- 
gave the tyrants and came — I, and Rachel, my wife, and 
Deborah and Michal, our roses of Sharon." 

The man paused again, looking abniptly at Mary, who 
was now looking at him and listening. Then he said, 
** Rabbi, will not your wife go to mine ? You may see her 
yonder with the children, under the leaning olive-tree at 
the bend of the road. I tell you " — he turned to Joseph 
and spoke positively — ** I tell you the khan is full. It is 
useless to ask at the gate." 

Joseph's will was slow, like his mind ; he hesitated, but 
at length replied, " The offer is kind. Whether there bo 
room for us or not in the house, we will go see your peo- 
ple. Let me speak to the gate-keeper myself. I will re- 
turn quickly." 

And, putting the leading-strap in the stranger's hand, he 
pushed into the stirring crowd. 

The keeper sat on a great cedar block outside the gate. 
Against the wall behind him leaned a javelin. A dog 
squatted on the block by his side. 



48 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

" The peace of Jehovah be with yon," said Joseph, at 
last confronting the keeper. ^ 

"What you give, may you find again ; and, when found, 
be it many times multiplied to you and yours," returned 
the watchman, gravely, though without moving. 

** I am a Bethlehemite," said Joseph, in his most deliber- 
ate way. " Is there not room for — " 

" There is not." 

" You may have heard of me — Joseph of Nazareth. This 
is the house of my fathers. I am of the line of David." 

These words held the Nazarene's hope. If they failed 
him, further appeal was idle, even that of the offer of many 
shekels. To be a son of Judah was one thing — in the tri- 
bal opinion a great thing ; to be of the house of David was 
yet another ; on the tongue of a Hebrew there could be no 
higher boast. A thousand years and more had passed since 
the boyish shepherd became the successor of Saul and 
founded a royal family. Wars, calamities, other kings, and 
the countless obscuring processes of time had, as respects 
fortune, lowered his descendants to the common Jewish 
level ; the bread they ate came to them of toil never more 
humble ; yet they had the benefit of history sacredly kept, 
of which genealogy was the first chapter and the last ; they 
could not become unknown ; while, wherever they went in 
Israel, acquaintance drew after it a respect amounting to 
reverence. 

If this were so in Jerusalem and elsewhere, certainly one 
of the sacred line might reasonably rely upon it at the 
door of the khan of Bethlehem. To say, as Joseph said, 
**This is the house of my fathers" was to say the truth 
most simply and literally ; for it was the very house Ruth 
ruled as the wife of Boaz ; the very house in which Jesse 
and his ten sons, David the youngest, were bom ; the very 
house in which Samuel came seeking a king, and found 
him ; the very house which David gave to the son of Bar- 
zillai, the friendly Gileadite ; the very house in which Jere- 
miah, by prayer, rescued the remnant of his race flying be- 
fore the Babylonians. 

The appeal was not without effect The keeper of the 
gate slid down from the cedar block, and, laying his hand 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 49 

upon his beard, said, respectfully, " Rabbi, I cannot tell you 
when this door first opened in welcome to the traveller, but 
it was more than a thousand years ago ; and in all that time 
there is no known instance of a good man turned away, 
save when there was no room to rest him in. If it has 
been so with the stranger, just cause must the steward have 
who says no to one of the line of David. Wherefore, I 
salute you again ; and, if you care to go with me, I will 
show you that there is not a lodging- place left in the 
house ; neither in the chambers, nor in the lewens, nor in 
the court — not even on the roof. May I ask when you 
came ?" 

" But now." 

The keeper smiled. 

" * The stranger that dwelleth with you shall be as one 
born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself.' Is 
not that the law, Rabbi ?" 

Joseph was silent. 

" If it be the law, can I say to one a long time come, * Go 
thy way ; another is here to take thy place V " 

Yet Joseph held his peace. 

"And, if I said so, to whom would the place belong? 
See the many that have been waiting, some of them since 
noon." 

" Who are all these people ?" asked Joseph, turning to 
the crowd. "And why are they here at this time ?" 

" That which doubtless brought you. Rabbi — the decree 
of the Caesar " — the keeper threw an interrogative glance 
at the Nazarene, then continued — " brought most of those 
who have lodging in the house. And yesterday the caravan 
passing from Damascus to Arabia and Lower Egypt ar- 
rived. These you see here belong to it — men and camels." 

Still Joseph persisted. 

" The court is large," he said. 

" Yes, but it is heaped with cargoes — with bales of silk, 
and pockets of spices, and goods of every kind." 

Then for a moment the face of the applicant lost its sto- 
lidity; the lustreless, staring eyes dropped. With some 
warmth he next said, " I do not care for myself, but I have 
with me my wife, and the night is cold — colder on these 
4 



60 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

heights than in Nazareth. She cannot live in the open air. 
Is there not room in the town ?'* 

" These people " — the keeper waved his hand to the throng 
before the door — " have all besought the town, and they re- 
port its accommodations all engaged." 

Again Joseph studied the ground, saying, half to himself, 
" She is so young ! if I make her bed on the hill, the frosts 
will kill her." 

Then he spoke to the keeper again. 

" It may be you knew her parents, Joachim and Anna, 
once of Bethlehem, and, like myself, of the line of David." 

" Yes, I knew them. They were good people. That was 
in my youth." 

This time the keeper's eyes sought the ground in thought 
Suddenly he raised his head. 

" If I cannot make room for you," he said, " I cannot 
turn you away. Rabbi, I will do the best I can for you. 
How many are of your party?" 

Joseph reflected, then replied, " My wife and a friend 
with his family, from Beth-Dagon, a little town over by 
Joppa ; in all, six of us." 

'* Very well. You shall not lie out on the ridge. Bring 
your people, and hasten ; for, when the sun goes down be- 
hind the mountain, you know the night comes quickly, 
and it is nearly there now." 

" I give you the blessing of the houseless traveller ; that 
of the sojourner will follow." 

So saying, the Nazarene went back joyfully to Mary and 
the Beth-Dagonite. In a little while the latter brought up 
his family, the women mounted on donkeys. The wife 
was matronly, the daughters were images of what she must 
have been in youth ; and as they drew nigh the door, the 
keeper knew them to be of the humble class. 

"This is she of whom I spoke," said the Nazarene; "and 
these are our friends." 

Mary's veil was raised. 

" Blue eyes and hair of gold," muttered the steward to 
himself, seeing but her. " So looked the young king when 
he went to sing before Saul." 

Then he took the leading-strap from Joseph and said to 



BEX-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. fil 

Mary, " Peace to you, daughter of David !" Then to the 
others, " Peace to you all !" Then to Joseph, " Rabbi, fol- 
low me." 

The party were conducted into a wide passage paved 
with stone, from which they entered the court of the khan. 
To a stranger the scene would have been curious ; but they 
noticed the lewens that yawned darkly upon them from all 
sides, and the court itself, only to remark how crowded 
they were. By a lane reserved in the stowage of the car- 
goes, and thence by a passage similar to the one at the en- 
trance, they emerged into the enclosure adjoining the house, 
and came upon camels, horses, and donkeys, tethered and 
dozing in close groups; amo^g tbem were the keepers, 
men of many lands ; and they, too, slept or kept silent 
watch. They went down the slope of the crowded yard 
slowly, for the dull carriers of the women had wills of their 
own. At length they turned into a path running towards 
the gray limestone bluff overlooking the khan on the west. 

"We are going to the cave," said Joseph, laconically. 

The guide lingered till Mary came to his side. 

" The cave to which we are going," he said to her, " must 
have been a resort of your ancestor David. From the field 
below us, and from the well down in the valley, he used to 
drive his flocks to it for safety; and afterwards, when he 
was king, he came back to the old house here for rest and 
health, bringing great trains of animals. The mangers yet 
remain as they were in his day. Better a bed upon the 
floor where he has slept than one in the court-yard or out 
by the roadside. Ah, here is the house before the cave !" 

This speech must not be taken as an apology for the 
lodging offered. There was no need of apology. The 
place was the best then at disposal. The guests were sim- 
ple folks, by habits of life easily satisfied. To the Jew of 
that period, moreover, abode in caverns was a familiar idea, 
made so by every-day occurrences, and by what he heard 
of Sabbaths in the synagogues. How much of Jewish his- 
tory, how many of the most exciting incidents in that his- 
tory, had transpired in caves! Yet further, these people 
were Jews of Bethlehem, with whom the idea was especial- 
ly commonplace; for their locality abounded with caves 



52 BEX-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

great and small, some of which had been dwelling-places 
from the time of the Emim and Horites. No more was 
there offence to them in the fact that the cavern to which 
they were being taken had been, or was, a stable. They 
were the descendants of a race of herdsmen, whose flocks 
habitually shared both their habitations and wanderings. 
In keeping with a custom derived from Abraham, the tent 
of the Bedawin yet shelters his horses and children alike. 
So they obeyed the keeper cheerfully, and gazed at the 
house, feeling only a natural curiosity. Everything associ- 
ated with the history of David was interesting to them. 

The building was low and narrow, projecting but a little 
from the rock to which it was joined at the rear, and wholly 
without a window. In its blank front there was a door, swung 
on enormous hinges, and thickly daubed with ochreous clay. 
While the wooden bolt of the lock was being pushed back, 
the women were assisted from their pillions. Upon the 
opening of the door, the keeper called out, 

" Come in !" 

The guests entered, and stared about them. It became 
apparent immediately that the house was but a mask or cov- 
ering for the mouth of a natural cave or grotto, probably 
forty feet long, nine or ten high, and twelve or fifteen in 
width. The light streamed through the doorway, over an 
uneven floor, falling upon piles of grain and fodder, and 
earthenware and household property, occupying the centre 
of the chamber. Along the sides were mangers, low enough 
for sheep, and built of stones laid in cement. There were 
no stalls or partitions of any kind. Dust and chaff yellowed 
the floor, filled all the crevices and hollows, and thickened 
the spider-webs, which dropped from the ceiling like bits of 
dirty linen ; otherwise the place was cleanly, and, to appear- 
ance, as comfortable as any of the arched lewens of the 
khan proper. In fact, a cave was the model and first sug- 
gestion of the lewen. 

** Come in !" said the guide. " These piles upon the floor 
are for travellers like yourselves. Take what of them yoa 
need." 

Then he spoke to Mary. 

" Can you rest here ?" 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 53 

" The place is sanctified," she answered. 
" I leave you then. Peace be with you all !" 
When he was gone, they busied themselves making the 
cave habitable. 



Chapter X. 

At a certain hour in the evening the shouting and stir of 
the people in and about the khan ceased ; at the same time, 
every Israelite, if not already upon his feet, arose, solem- 
nized his face, looked towards Jerusalem, crossed his hands 
upon his breast, and prayed ; for it was the sacred ninth 
hour, when sacrifices were oflEered in the temple on Moriah, 
and God was supposed to be there. When the hands of the 
worshippers fell down, the commotion broke forth again ; 
everybody hastened to bread, or to make his pallet. A lit- 
tle lat«r, the lights were put out, and there was silence, and 

then sleep. 

****** 

About midnight some one on the roof cried out, " What 
light is that in the sky ? Awake, brethren, awake and see !" 

The people, half asleep, sat up and looked ; then they be- 
came wide-awake, though wonder-struck. And the stir 
spread to the court below, and into the lewens; soon the 
entire tenantry of the house and court and enclosure were 
out gazing at the sky. 

And this was what they saw. A ray of light, beginning 
at a height immeasurably beyond the nearest stars, and drop- 
ping obliquely to the earth ; at its top, a diminishing point ; 
at its base, many furlongs in width ; its sides blending soft- 
ly with the darkness of the night ; its core a roseate elec- 
trical splendor. The apparition seemed to rest on the near- 
est mountain southeast of the town, making a pale corona 
along the line of the summit. The khan was touched lu- 
minously, so that those upon the roof saw each other's faces, 
all filled with wonder. 

Steadily, through minutes, the ray lingered, and then the 
wonder changed to awe and fear; the timid trembled; the 
boldest spoke in whispers. 



54 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

" Saw you ever the like ?" asked one. 

" It seems just over the mountain there. I cannot tell 
what it is, nor did I ever see anything like it," was the an- 
swer. 

" Can it be that a star has burst and fallen ?" asked an- 
other, hU tongue faltering. 

" When a star falls, its light goes out." 

"I have it!" cried one, confidently. "The shepherds 
have seen a lion, and made fires to keep him from the 
flocks." 

The men next the speaker drew a breath of relief, and 
said, " Yes, that is it ! The flocks were grazing in the val- 
ley over there to-day." 

A bystander dispelled the comfort. 

" No, no ! Though all the wood in all the valleys of Ju- 
dah was brought together in one pile and fired, the blaze 
would not throw a light so strong and high." 

After that there was silence on the house-top, broken but 
once again while the mystery continued. 

" Brethren !" exclaimed a Jew of venerable mien, " what 
we see is the ladder our father Jacob saw in his dream. 
Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers !" 



Chapter XL 

A MILE and a half, it may be two miles, southeast of Beth- 
lehem, there is a plain separated from the town by an inter- 
vening swell of the mountain. Besides being well sheltered 
from the north winds, the vale was covered with a growth 
of sycamore, dwarf-oak, and pine trees, while in the glens 
and ravines adjoining there were thickets of olive and mul- 
berry ; all at this season of the year invaluable for the sup- 
port of sheep, goats, and cattle, of which the wandering 
flocks consisted. 

At the side farthest from the town, close under a bluff, 
there was an extensive mdr&h^ or sheepcot, ages old. In 
some long-forgotten foray, the building had been unroofed 
and almost demolished. The enclosure attached to it re- 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 55 

mained intact, however, and that was of more importance to 
the shepherds who drove their charges thither than the 
house itself. The stone wall around the lot was high as a 
man's head, yet not so high but that sometimes a panther 
or a lion, hungering from the wilderness, leaped boldly in. 
On the inner side of the wall, and as an additional security 
against the constant danger, a hedge of the rhamnus had 
been planted, an invention so successful that now a sparrow 
could hardly penetrate the overtopping branches, armed as 
they were with great clusters of thorns hard as spikes. 

The day of the occurrences which occupy the preceding 
chapters, a number of shepherds, seeking fresh walks for 
their flocks, led them up to this plain ; and from early morn- 
ing the groves had been made ring with calls, and the blows 
of axes, the bleating of sheep and goats, the tinkling of 
bells, the lowing of cattle, and the barking of dogs. AY hen 
the sun went down, they led the way to the mdrdk, and by 
nightfall had everything safe in the field ; then they kindled 
a fire down by the gate, partook of their humble supper, and 
sat down to rest and talk, leaving one on watch. 

There were six of these men, omitting the watchman ; 
and afterwhile they assembled in a group near the fire, some 
sitting, some lying prone. As they went bareheaded habit- 
ually, their hair stood out in thick, coarse, sunburnt shocks ; 
their beard covered their throats, and fell in mats down the 
breast; mantles of the skin of kids and lambs, with the 
fleece on, wrapped them from neck to knee, leaving the arms 
exposed; broad belts girthed the rude garments to their 
waists; their sandals were of the coarsest quality; from 
their right shoulders hung scrips containing food and se- 
lected stones for slings, with which they were armed ; on the 
ground near each one. lay his crook, a symbol of his calling 
and a weapon of offence. 

Such were the shepherds of Judea ! In appearance, rough 
and savage as the gaunt dogs sitting with them around the 
blaze ; in fact, simple-minded, tender-hearted ; effects due, 
in part, to the primitive life they led, but chiefly to their 
constant care of things lovable and helpless. 

They rested and talked ; and their talk was all about their 
flocks, a dull theme to the world, yet a theme which was all 



56 BEX-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

the world to them. If in narrative they dwelt long upon 
affairs of trifling moment ; if one of them omitted nothing 
of detail in recounting the loss of a lamb, the relation be- 
tween him and the unfortunate should be remembered : at 
birth it became his charge, his to keep all its days, to help 
over the floods, to carry down the hollows, to name and 
train ; it was to be his companion, his object of thought and 
interest, the subject of his will ; it was to enliven and share 
his wanderings ; in its defence he might be called on to face 
the lion or robber — to die. 

The great events, such as blotted out nations and changed 
the mastery of the world, were trifles to them, if perchance 
they came to their knowledge. Of what Herod was doing 
in this city or that, building palaces and gymnasia, and in- 
dulging forbidden practices, they occasionally heard. As 
was her habit in those days, Rome did not wait for people 
slow to inquire about her ; she came to them. Over the 
hills along which he was leading his lagging herd, or in the 
fastnesses in which he was hiding them, not unfrequently 
the shepherd was startled by the blare of trumpets, and, 
peering out, beheld a cohort, sometimes a legion, in march ; 
and when the glittering crests were gone, and the excite- 
ment incident to the intrusion over, he bent himself to 
evolve the meaning of the eagles and gilded globes of the 
soldiery, and the charm of a life so the opposite of his own. 

Yet these men, rude and simple as they were, had a knowl- 
edge and a wisdom of their own. On Sabbaths they were 
accustomed to purify themselves, and go up into the syna- 
gogues, and sit on the benches farthest from the ark. When 
the chazzan bore the Torah round, none kissed it with great- 
er zest ; when the sheliach read the text, none listened to 
the interpreter with more absolute faith; and none took 
away with them more of the elder's sermon, or gave it more 
thought afterwards. In a verse of the Shema they found 
all the learning and all the law of their simple lives — that 
their Lord was One God, and that they must love him with 
all their souls. And they loved him, and such was their 
wisdom, surpassing that of kings. 

While they talked, and before the first watch was over, one 
by one the shepherds went to sleep, each lying where he had sat. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 57 

The night, like most nights of the winter season in the 
hill country, was clear, crisp, and sparkling with stars. There 
was no wind. The atmosphere seemed never so pure, and 
the stillness was more than silence ; it was a holy hush, a 
warning that heaven was stooping low to whisper some 
good thing to the listening earth. 

By the gate, hugging his mantle close, the watchman 
walked ; at times he stopped, attracted by a stir among the 
sleeping herds, or by a jackal's cry oflE on the mountain-side. 
The midnight was slow coming to him ; but at last it came. 
His task was done ; now for the dreamless sleep with which 
labor blesses its wearied children ! He moved towards the 
fire, but paused ; a light was breaking around him, soft and 
white, like the moon's. He waited breathlessly. The light 
deepened ; things before invisible came to view ; he saw 
the whole field, and all it sheltered. A chill sharper than 
that of the frosty air — a chill of fear — smote him. He looked 
up ; the stars were gone ; the light was dropping as from 
a window in the sky ; as he looked, it became a splendor ; 
then, in terror, he cried, 

" Awake, awake I" 

Up sprang the dogs, and, howling, ran away. 

The herds rushed together bewildered. 

The men clambered to their feet, weapons in hand. 

" What is it ?" they asked, in one voice. 

" See 1" cried the watchman, " the sky is on fire !" 

Suddenly the light became intolerably bright, and they 
covered their eyes, and dropped upon their knees; then, 
as their souls shrank with fear, they fell upon their faces 
blind and fainting, and would have died had not a voice 
said to them, 

" Fear not !" 

And they listened. 

" Fear not : for behold, I bring you good tidings of great 
joy, which shall be to all people." 

The voice, in sweetness and soothing more than human, 
and low and clear, penetrated all their being, and filled 
them with assurance. They rose upon their knees, and, 
looking worshipfully, beheld in the centre of a great glory 
the appearance of a man, clad in a robe intensely white ; 



58 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

above its shoulders towered the tops of wings shining and 
folded; a star over its forehead glowed with steady lustre, 
brilliant as Hesperus; its hands were stretched towards 
them in blessing; its face was serene and divinely beautiful. 

They had often heard, and, in their simple way, talked, of 
angels ; and they doubted not now, but said, in their hearts, 
The glory of God is about us, and this is he who of old 
came to the prophet by the river of Ulai. 

Directly the angel continued : 

" For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a 
Saviour, which is Christ the Lord !" 

Again there was a rest, while the words sank into their 
minds. 

"And this shall be a sign unto you," the annunciator 
said next. " Ye shall find the babe, wrapped in swaddling- 
clothes, lying in a manger." 

The herald spoke not again ; his good tidings were told ; 
yet he stayed awhile. Suddenly the light, of which he 
seemed the centre, turned roseate and began to tremble ; 
then up, far as the men could see, there was flashing of white 
wings, and coming and going of radiant forms, and voices 
as of a multitude chanting in unison, 

" Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good- 
will towards men !" 

Not once the praise, but many times. 

Then the herald raised his eyes as seeking approval of 
one far off ; his wings stirred, and spread slowly and majes- 
tically, on their upper side white as snow, in the shadow 
vari-tinted, like mother-of-pearl ; when they were expanded 
many cubits beyond his stature, he arose lightly, and, without 
effort, floated out of view, taking the light up with him. 
Long after he was gone, down from the sky fell the re- 
frain in measure mellowed by distance, "Glory to God 
in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards 
men." 

When the shepherds came fully to their senses, they 
stared at each other stupidly, until one of them said, "It 
was Gabriel, the Lord's messenger unto men." 

None answered. 

" Christ the Lord is born ; said he not so ?" 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 59 

Then another recovered his voice, and replied, " That is 
what he said." 

" And did he not also say, in the city of David, which is 
our Bethlehem yonder. And that we should find him a 
babe in swaddling-clothes?" 

" And lying in a manger." 

The first speaker gazed into the fire thoughtfully, but at 
length said, like one possessed of a sudden resolve, " There 
is but one place in Bethlehem where there are mangers ; 
but one, and that is in the cave near the old khan. Breth- 
ren, let us go see this thing which has come to pass. The 
priests and doctors have been a long time looking for the 
Christ. Now he is born, and the Lord has given us a sign 
by which to know him. Let us go up and worship him." 

" But the flocks !" 

" The Lord will take care of them. Let us make haste." 

Then they all arose and left the mdrdk, 

****** 

Around the mountain and through the town they passed, 
and came to the gate of the khan, where there was a man 
on watch. 

" What would you have ?" he asked. 

" We have seen and heard great things to-night," they 
replied. 

" Well, we, too, have seen great things, but heard nothing. 
What did you hear ?" 

" Let us go down to the cave in the enclosure, that we 
may be sure ; then we will tell you all. Come with us, and 
see for yourself." 

" It is a fool's errand." 

" No, the Christ is born." 

" The Christ I How do you know ?" 

" Let us go and see first." 

The man laughed scornfully. 

"The Christ indeed ! How are you to know him?" 

" He was born this night, and is now lying in a manger, 
so we were told ; and there is but one place in Bethlehem 
with mangers." 

" The cave ?" 

" Yes. Come with us." 



60 BEX-nUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

They went through the court-yard without notice, al- 
though there were some up even then talking about the 
wonderful light. The door of the cavern was open. A 
lantern was burning within, and they entered uncere- 
moniously. 

"I give you peace," the watchman said to Joseph and 
the Beth-Dagonite. " Here are people looking for a child 
bom this night, whom they are to know by finding him in 
swaddling-clothes and lying in a manger." 

For a moment the face of the stolid Nazarene was moved; 
turning away, he said, " The child is here." 

They were led to one of the mangers, and there the child 
was. The lantern was brought, and the shepherds stood by 
mute. The little one made no sign; it was as others 
just born. 

" Where is the mother?" asked the watchman. 

One of the women took the baby, and went to Mary, lying 
near, and put it in her arms. Then the bystanders col- 
lected about the two. 

" It is the Christ !" said a shepherd, at last. 

" The Christ !" they all repeated, falling upon their knees 
in worship. One of them repeated several times over, 

" It is the Lord, and his glory is above the earth and 
heaven." 

And the simple men, never doubting, kissed the hem of 
the mother's robe, and with joyful faces departed. In the 
khan, to all the people aroused and pressing about them, 
they told their story ; and through the town, and all the 
way back to the mdrdhj they chanted the refrain of the an- 
gels, " Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, 
good-will towards men !" 

The story went abroad, confirmed by the light so gener- 
ally seen ; and the next day, and for days thereafter, the 
cave was visited by curious crowds, of whom some believed, 
though the greater part laughed and mocked. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 61 



Chapter XII. 

Thb eleventh day after the birth of the child in the cave, 
about mid-afternoon, the three wise men approached Jeru- 
salem by the road from Shechem. After crossing Brook 
Oedron, they met many people, of whom none failed to stop 
and look after them curiously. 

Judea was of necessity an international thoroughfare ; a 
nan'ow ridge, raised, apparently, by the pressure of the desert 
on the east, and the sea on the west, was all she could 
claim to be ; over the ridge, however, nature had stretched 
the line of trade between the east and the south ; and that 
was her wealth. In other words, the riches of Jerusalem 
were the tolls she levied on passing commerce. Nowhere 
else, consequently, unless in Rome, was there such constant 
assemblage of so many people of so many different nations ; 
in no other city was a stranger less strange to the residents 
than within her walls and purlieus. And yet these three 
men excited the wonder of all whom they met on the way 
to the gates. 

A child belonging to some women sitting by the roadside 
opposite the Tombs of the Kings saw the party coming ; 
immediately it clapped its hands, and cried, " Look, look ! 
"What pretty bells ! What big camels !" 

The bells were silver ; the camels, as we have seen, were 
of unusual size and whiteness, and moved with singular 
stateliness; the trappings told of the desert and of long 
journeys thereon, and also of ample means in possession of 
the owners, who sat under the little canopies exactly as they 
appeared at the rendezvous beyond the Jebel. Yet it was 
not the bells or the camels, or their furniture, or the de- 
meanor of the riders, that were so wonderful ; it was the 
question put by the man who rode foremost of the three. 

The approach to Jerusalem from the north is across a 
plain which dips southward, leaving the Damascus Gate in 
a vale or hollow. The road is narrow, but deeply cut by 



62 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

long use, and in places difficult on account of the cobbles 
left loose and dry by the washing of the rains. On either 
side, however, there stretched, in the old time, rich fields and 
handsome olive-groves, which must, in luxurious growth, 
have been beautiful, especially to travellers fresh from the 
wastes of the desert. In this road, the three stopped before 
the party in front of the Tombs. 

" Good people," said Balthasar, stroking his plaited beard, 
and bending from his cot, " is not Jerusalem close by ?" 

" Yes," answered the woman into whose arms the child 
had shrunk. " If the trees on yon swell were a little lower, 
you could see the towers on the market-place." 

Balthasar gave the Greek and the Hindoo a look, then 
asked, 

" Where is he that is bom King: of the Jews ?" 

The women gazed at each other without reply. 

" You have not heard of him ?" 

" No." 

" Well, tell everybody that we have seen his star in the 
east, ^nd are come to worship him." 

Thereupon the friends rode on. Of others they asked 
the same question, with like result. A large company whom 
they met going to the Grotto of Jeremiah were so astonish- 
ed by the inquiry and the appearance of the travellers that 
they turned about and followed them into the city. 

So much were the three occupied with the idea of their 
mission that they did not care for the view which presently 
rose before them in the utmost magnificence : for the vil- 
lage first to receive them on Bezetha ; for Mizpah and Oli- 
vet, over on their left ; for the wall behind the village, with 
its forty tall and solid towers, superadded partly for strength, 
partly to gratify the critical taste of the kingly builder ; for 
the same towered wall bending off to the right, with many 
an angle, and here and there an embattled gate, up to the 
three great white piles Phasaelus, Mariamne, and Hippicus ; 
for Zion, tallest of the hills, crowned with marble palaces, and 
never so beautiful ; for the glittering terraces of the temple 
on Moriah, admittedly one of the wonders of the earth; 
for the regal mountains rimming the sacred city round 
about until it seemed in the hollow of a mighty bowl. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 03 

They came, at length, to a tower of great height and 
strength, overlooking the gate which, at that time, answered 
to the present Damascus Gate, and marked the meeting- 
place of the three roads from Shechem, Jericho, and Gibeon. 
A Roman guard kept the passage-way. By this time the 
people following the camels formed a train suflScient to draw 
the idlers hanging about the portal ; so that when Balthasar 
stopped to speak to the sentinel, the three became instantly 
the centre of a close circle eager to hear all that passed. 

" I give you peace," the Egyptain said, in a clear voice. 

The sentinel made no reply. 

" We have come great distances in search of one who is 
bom King of the Jews. Can you tell us where he is ?" 

The soldier raised the visor of his helmet, and called 
loudly. From an apartment at the right of the passage an 
oflBcer appeared. 

"Give way," he cried, to the crowd which now pressed 
closer in ; and as they seemed slow to obey, he advanced 
twirling his javelin vigorously, now right, now left ; and so 
he gained room. 

" What would you ?" he asked of Balthasar, speaking in 
the idiom of the city. 

And Balthasar answered in the same, 

" Where is he that is bom King of the Jews ?" 

" Herod ?" asked the officer, confounded. 

" Herod's kingship is from Caesar ; not Herod." 

" There is no other Kinij of the Jews." 

" But we have seen the star of him we seek, and come to 
Worship him." 

The Roman was perplexed. 

" Go farther," he said, at last. " Go farther. I am not 
a Jew. Carry the question to the doctors in the Temple, 
or to Hannas the priest, or, better still, to Herod himself. 
If there be another King of the Jews, he will find him." 

Thereupon he made way for the strangers, and they pass- 
ed the gate. But, before entering the narrow street, Bal- 
thasar lingered to say to his friends, " We are sufficiently 
proclaimed. By midnight the whole city will have heard 
of us and of our mission. Let us to the khan now." 



64 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CBRIST. 



Chapter XIIL 

That evening, before sunset, some women were washing 
clothes on the upper step of the flight that led down into the 
basin of the Pool of Siloam. They knelt each before a 
broad bowl of earthenware. A girl at the foot of the steps 
kept them supplied with water, and sang while she filled 
the jar. The song was cheerful, and no doubt lightened 
their labor. Occasionally they would sit upon their heels, 
and look up the slope of Ophel, and round to the summit 
of what is now the Mount of Offence, then faintly glori- 
fied by the dying sun. 

While they plied their hands, rubbing and wringing the 
clothes in the bowls, two other women came to them, each 
with an empty jar upon her shoulder. 

" Peace to you," one of the new-comers said. 

The laborers paused, sat up, wrung the water from their 
hands, and returned the salutation. 

" It is nearly night — time to quit." 

" There is no end to work," was the reply. 

" But there is a time to rest, and — " 

" To hear what may be passing," interposed another. 

" What news have you ?" 

" Then you have not heard ?" 

" No." 

"They say the Christ is bom," said the newsmonger, 
plunging into her story. 

It was curious to see the faces of the laborers brighten 
with interest ; on tha other side down came the jars, which, 
in a moment, were turned into seats for their owners. 

" The Christ !" the listeners cried. 

"So thev say." 

" Who ?" 

" Everybody ; it is common talk." 

"Does anybody believe it ?" 

"This afternoon three men came across Brook Cedron 
on the road from Shechem," the speaker replied, circum- 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 65 

stantially, intending to smother doubt. ** Each one of them 
rode a camel spotless white, and larger than any ever before 
seen in Jerusalem." 

The eyes and mouths of the auditors opened wide. 

** To prove how great and rich the men were," the nar- 
rator continued, "they sat under awnings of silk; the 
buckles of their saddles were of gold, as was the fringe of 
their bridles ; the bells were of silver, and made real music. 
Nobody knew them ; they looked as if they had come from 
the ends of the world. Only one of them spoke, and of 
everybody on the road, even the women and children, he 
asked this question — * Where is he that is born King of the 
Jews?' No one gave them answer — no one understood 
what they meant ; so they passed on, leaving behind them 
this saying : * For we have seen his star in the east, and are 
come to worship him.' They put the question to the Roman 
at the gate ; and he, no wiser than the simple people on the 
road, sent them up to Herod." 

" Where are they now ?" 

"At the khan. Hundreds have been to look at them 
already, and hundreds more are going." 

" Who are they «" 

"Nobody knows. They are said to be Persians — wise 
men who talk with the stars — prophets, it may be, like Eli- 
jah and Jeremiah." 

" What do they mean by King of the Jews ?" 

" The Christ, and that he is just born." 

One of the women laughed, and resumed her work, 
saying, " Well, when I see him I will believe." 

Another followed her example : " And I — well, when I 
see him raise the dead, I will believe." 

A third said, quietly, " He has been a long time promised. 
It will be enough for me to see him heal one leper." 

And the party sat talking until the night came, and, with 
the help of the frosty air, drove them home. 

* * ill * He 4c 

Later in the evening, about the beginning of the first 

watch, there was an assemblage in the palace on Mount 

Zion, of probably fifty persons, who never came together 

except by order of Herod, and then only when he had de- 

5 



60 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

manded to know some one or more of the deeper mysteries 
of the Jewish law and history. It was, in short, a meeting 
of the teachers of the colleges, of the chief priests, and of the 
doctors most noted in the city for learning — ^the leaders of 
opinion, expounders of the different creeds ; princes of the 
Sadducees ; Pharisaic debaters ; calm, soft-spoken, stoical phi- 
losophers of the Essene socialists. 

The chamber in which the session was held belonged to 
one of the interior court-yards of the palace, and was quite 
large and Romanesque. The floor was tessellated with 
marble blocks ; the walls, unbroken by a window, were fres- 
coed in panels of saffron yellow ; a divan occupied the centre 
of the apartment, covered with cushions of bright-yellow 
cloth, and fashioned in form of tlie letter TJ, the opening 
towards the doorway ; in the arch of the divan, or, as it 
were, in the bend of the letter, there was an immense bronze 
tripod, curiously inlaid with gold and silver, over which a 
chandelier dropped from the ceiling, having seven arms, each 
holding a lighted lamp. The divan and the lamp were 
purely Jewish. 

The company sat upon the divan after the style of Orien- 
tals, in costume singularly uniform, except as to color. 
They were mostly men advanced in years ; immense beards 
covered their faces ; to their large noses were added the 
effects of large black eyes deeply shaded by bold brows ; 
their demeanor was grave, dignified, even patriarchal. In 
brief, their session was that of the Sanhedrim. 

He who sat before the tripod, however, in the place which 
may be called the head of the divan, having all the rest of 
his associates on his right and left, and, at the same time, be- 
fore him, evidently president of the meeting, would have 
instantly absorbed the attention of a spectator. He had 
been cast in large mould, but was now shrunken and stoop- 
ed to ghastliness ; his white robe dropped from his shoul- 
ders in folds that gave no hint of muscle or anything but 
an angular skeleton. His hands, half concealed by sleeves 
of silk, white and crimson striped, were clasped upon his 
knees. When he spoke, sometimes the first finger of the 
right hand extended tremulously ; he seemed incapable of 
other gesture. But his head was a splendid dome. A few 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 67 

hairs, whiter than fine-drawn silver, fringed the base ; over 
a broad, full-sphered skull the skin was drawn close, and 
shone in the light with positive brilliance; the temples 
were deep hollows, from which the forehead beetled like 
a wrinkled crag ; the eyes were wan and dim ; the nose 
was pinched ; and all the lower face was muffled in a beard 
flowing and venerable as Aaron's. Such was Hillel the 
Babylonian ! The line of prophets, long extinct in Israel, 
was now succeeded by a line of scholars, of whom he was 
first in learning — a prophet in all but the divine inspiration ! 
At the age of one hundred and six, he was still Rector of 
the Great College. 

On the table before him lay outspread a roll or volume 
of parchment inscribed with Hebrew characters; behind 
him, in waiting, stood a page richly habited. 

There had been discussion, but at this moment of intro- 
duction the company had reached a conclusion ; each one 
was in an attitude of rest, and the venerable Hillel, without 
moving, called the page. 

" Hist !" 

The youth advanced respectfully. 

" Go tell the king we are ready to give him answer." 

The boy hurried away. 

After a time two officers entered, and stopped one on 
each side the door ; after them slowly followed a most strik- 
ing personage — an old man clad in a purple robe bordered 
with scarlet, and girt to his waist by a band of gold linked 
so fine that it was pliable as leather ; the latchets of his shoes 
sparkled with precious stones ; a narrow crown wrought in 
filigree shone outside a tarbooshe of softest crimson plush, 
which, encasing his head, fell down the neck and shoulders, 
leaving the throat and neck exposed. Instead of a seal, a 
dagger dangled from his belt. He walked with a halting 
step, leaning heavily upon a staff. Not until he reached 
the opening of the divan, did he pause or look up from the 
floor ; then, as for the first time conscious of the company, 
and roused by their presence, he raised himself, and looked 
haughtily round, like one startled and searching for an ene- 
my — so dark, suspicious, and threatening was the glance. 
Such was Herod the Great — a body broken by diseases, a 



C8 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

conscience seared with crimes, a mind magnificently capa- 
ble, a soul fit for brotherhood with the Caesars ; now seven- 
and-sixty years old, but guarding his throne with a jealousy 
never so vigilant, a power never so despotic, and a cruelty 
never so inexorable. 

There was a general movement on the part of the assem- 
blage — a bending-forWard in salaam by the more aged, a 
rising-up by the more courtierly, followed by low genuflec- 
tions, hands upon the beard or breast. 

His observations taken, Herod moved on until at the 
tripod opposite the venerable Hillel, who met his cold glance 
with an inchnation of the head, and a slight lifting of the 
hands. 

" The answer !" said the king, with imperious simplicity, 
addressing Hillel, and planting his staff before him with 
both hands. " The answer !" 

The eyes of the patriarch glowed mildly, and, raising his 
head, and looking the inquisitor full in the face, he an- 
swered, his associates giving him closest attention, 

** With thee, O king, be the peaoe of God, of Abraham, 
Isaac, and Jacob !" 

His manner was that of invocation ; changing it, he re- 
sumed : 

" Thou hast demanded of us where the Christ should be 
bom." 

The king bowed, though the evil eyes remained fixed 
upon the sage's face. 

" That is the question." 

" Then, O king, speaking for myself, and all my brethren 
here, not one dissenting, I say, in Bethlehem of Judea." 

Hillel glanced at the parchment on the tripod ; and, point- 
ing with his tremulous finger, continued, " In Bethlehem of 
Jndea, for thus it is written by the prophet, * And thou, Beth- 
lehem, in the land of Judea, art not the least among the 
princes of Judah ; for out of thee shall come a governor 
that shall rule my people Israel.' " 

Herod's face was troubled, and his eyes fell upon the 
parchment while he thought. Those beholding him scarcely 
breathed ; they spoke not, nor did he. At length he turned 
about and left the chamber. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OP THE CHRIST. 69 

*' Brethren," said Hillel, " we are dismissed." 

The company then arose, and in groups departed. 

" Simeon," said Hillel again. 

A man, quite fifty years old, but in the hearty prime of 
life, answered and came to him. 

" Take up the sacred parchment, my son ; roll it tenderly." 

The order was obeyed. 

" Now lend me thy arm ; I will to the litter." 

The strong man stooped ; with his withered bands, the 
old one took the offered support, and, rising, moved feebly 
to the door. 

So departed the famous Rector and Simeon, his son, who 

was to be his successor in wisdom, learning, and office. 
****** 

Yet later in the evening the wise men were lying in a 
lewen of the khan awake. The stones which served them 
as pillows raised their heads so they could look out of the 
open arch into the depths of the sky ; and as they watched 
the twinkling of the stars, they thought of the next mani- 
festation. How would it come? What would it be? They 
were in Jerusalem at last; they had asked at the gate for 
Him they sought ; they had borne witness of his birth ; it 
remained only to find him ; and as to that, they placed all 
trust in the Spirit. Men listening for the voice of God, or 
waiting a sign from Heaven, cannot sleep. 

While they were in this condition, a man stepped in 
under the arch, darkening the lewen. 

"Awake!" he said to them; "I bring you a message 
which will not be put off." 

They all sat up. 

" From whom ?" asked the Egyptian. 

" Herod the king." 

Each one felt his spirit thrill. 

*' Are you not the steward of the khan ?" Balthasar asked 
next. 

" I am." 

" What would the king with us ?" 

" His messenger is without ; let him answer." 

" Tell him, then, to abide our coming." 

" You were right, my brother !" said the Greek, when 



70 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

the steward was gone. " The question put to the people 
on the road, and to the guard at the gate, has given us 
quick notoriety. I am impatient ; let us up quickly." 

They arose, put on their sandals, girt their mantles about 
them, and went out. 

*' I salute you, and give you peace, and pray your par- 
don ; but my master, the king, has sent me to invite you 
to the palace, where he would have speech with you pri- 
vately." 

Thus the messenger discharged his duty. 

A lamp hung in the entrance, and by its light they looked 
at each other, and knew the Spirit was upon them. Then 
the Egyptian stepped to the steward, and said, so as not to 
be heard by the others, " You know where our goods are 
stored in the court, and where our camels are resting. 
While we are gone, make all things ready for our depart- 
ure, if it should be needful." 

" Go your way assured ; trust me," the steward replied. 

" The king's will is our will," said Balthasar to the mes- 
senger. " We will follow you." 

The streets of the Holy City were narrow then as now, 
but not so rough and foul ; for the great builder, not con- 
tent with beauty, enforced cleanliness and convenience also. 
Following their guide, the brethren proceeded without a 
word. Through the dim starlight, made dimmer by the 
walls on both sides, sometimes almost lost under bridges 
connecting the house-tops, out of a low ground they as- 
cended a hill. At last they came to a portal reared across 
the way. In the light of fires blazing before it in two great 
braziers, they caught a glimpse of the structure, and also of 
some guards leaning motionlessly upon their arms. They 
passed into a building unchallenged. Then by passages 
and arched halls; through courts, and under colonnades 
not always lighted ; up long flights of stairs, past innumer- 
able cloisters and chambers, they were conducted into a 
tower of great height. Suddenly the guide halted, and, 
pointing through an open door, said to them, 

" Enter. The king is there." 

The air of the chamber was heavy with the perfume of 
sandal-wood, and all the appointments within were effemi- 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 71 

nately rich. Upon the floor, covering the central space, a 
tufted rug was spread, and upon that a throne was set The 
visitors had but time, however, to catch a confused idea of 
the place — of carved and gilt ottomans and couches; of 
fans and jars and musical instruments; of golden candle- 
sticks glittering in their own lights ; of walls painted in the 
style of the voluptuous Grecian school, one look at which 
had made a Pharisee hide his head with holy horror. 
Herod, sitting upon the throne to receive them, clad as 
when at the conference with the doctors and lawyers, 
claimed all their minds. 

At the edge of the rug, to which they advanced uninvited, 
they prostrated themselves. The king touched a bell. An 
attendant came in, and placed three stools before the throne. 

" Seat yourselves," said the monarch, graciously. 

" From the North Gate," he continued, when they were 
at rest, " I had this afternoon report of the arrival of three 
strangers, curiously mounted, and appearing as if from far 
countries. Are you the men ?" 

The Egyptian took the sign from the Greek and the Hin- 
doo, and answered, with the profoundest salaam, " Were we 
other than we are, the mighty Herod, whose fame is as in- 
cense to the whole world, would not have sent for us. We 
may not doubt that we are the strangers." 

Herod acknowledged the speech with a wave of the 
hand. 

*' Who are you ? Whence do you come ?" he asked, 
adding, significantly, " Let each speak for himself." 

In turn they gave him account, referring simply to the 
cities and lands of their birth, and the routes by which they 
came to Jerusalem. Somewhat disappointed, Herod plied 
them more directly. 

" What was the question you put to the officer at the 
gate ?" 

" We asked him, Where is he that is born King of the 
Jews." 

** I see now why the people were so curious. You excite 
me no less. Is there another King of the Jews ?" 

The Egyptian did not blanch. 

'* There is one newly born." 



72 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

An expression of pain knit the dark face of the monarch, 
as if his mind were swept by a harrowing recollection. 

" Not to rae, not to me !" he exclaimed. 

Possibly the accusing images of his murdered children 
flitted before him ; recovering from the emotion, whatever 
it was, he asked, steadily, " Where is the new king?" 

" That, O king, is what we would ask." 

"You bring me a wonder — a riddle surpassing any of 
Solomon's," the inquisitor said next. " As you see, I am 
in the time of life when curiosity is as ungovernable as it 
was in childhood, when to trifle with it is cruelty. Tell me 
further, and I will honor vou as kings honor each other. 
Give me all you know about the newly born, and I will join 
you in the search for him ; and when we have found him, I 
will do what you wish ; I will bring him to Jerusalem, and 
train him in kingcraft ; I will use my grace with Caesar for 
his promotion and glory. Jealousy shall not come between 
us, so I swear. But tell me first how, so widely separated 
by seas and deserts, you all came to hear of him." 

" I will tell you truly, O king." 

" Speak on," said Herod. 

Balthasar raised himself erect, and said, solemnly, 

" There is an Almighty God." 

Herod was visibly startled. 

" He bade us come hither, promising that we should find 
the Redeemer of the World ; that we should see and wor- 
ship him, and bear witness that he was come ; and, as a sign, 
we were each given to see a star. His Spirit stayed with 
us. O king, his Spirit is with us now !" 

An overpowering feeling seized the three. The Greek 
with difficulty restrained an outcry. Herod's gaze darted 
quickly from one to the other ; he was more suspicious and 
dissatisfied than before. 

"You are mocking me," he said. " If not, tell me more. 
What is to follow the coming of the new king ?" 

" The salvation of men." 

" From what ?" 

" Their wickedness." 

"How?" 

" By the divine agencies — Faith, Love, and Good Works." 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 73 

"Then" — Herod paused, and from his look no man 
could have said with what feeling he continued — "you are 
the heralds of the Christ. Is that all ?" 

Balthasar bowed low. 

" We are your servants, O king." 

The monarch touched a bell, and the attendant appeared. 

" Bring the gifts," the master said. 

The attendant went out, but in a little while returned, 
and, kneeling before the guests, gave to each one an outer 
robe or mantle of scarlet and blue, and a girdle of gold. 
They acknowledged the honors with Eastern prostrations. 

" A word further," said Herod, when the ceremony was 
ended. "To the oflficer of the gate, and but now to me, 
you spoke of seeing a star in the east." 

" Yes," said Balthasar, " his star, the star of the newly 
bom." 

" What time did it appear ?" 

" When we were bidden come hither." 

Herod arose, signifying the audience was over. Stepping 
from the throne towards them, he said, with all graciousness, 

" If, as I believe, O illustrious men, you are indeed the 
heralds of the Christ just born, know that I have this night 
consulted those wisest in things Jewish, and they say with 
one voice he should be bom in Bethlehem of Judea. I say 
to you, go thither ; go and search diligently for the young 
child ; and when you have found him bring me word again, 
that I may come and worship him. To your going there 
shall be no let or hindrance. Peace be with you !" 

And, folding his robe about him, he left the chamber. 

Directly the guide came, and led them back to the street, 
and thence to the khan, at the portal of which the Greek 
said, impulsively, " Let us to Bethlehem, O brethren, as the 
king has advised." 

"Yes," cried the Hindoo. "The Spirit burns within 
me." 

" Be it so," said Balthasar, with equal warmth. " The 
camels are ready." 

They gave gifts to the steward, mounted into their sad- 
dles, received directions to the Joppa Gate, and departed. 
At their approach the great valves were unbarred, and they 



74 BEX-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHKIST. 

passed out into the open country, taking the road so lately 
travelled by Joseph and Mary. As they came up out of 
Hinnom, on the plain of Rephaim, a light appeared, at first 
wide-spread and faint. Their pulses fluttered fast. The 
light intensified rapidly ; they closed their eyes against its 
burning brilliance : when they dared look again, lo ! the 
star, perfect as any in the heavens, but low down and mov- 
ing slowly before them. And they folded their hands, and 
shouted, and rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 

" God is with us ! God is with us !" they repeated, in 
frequent cheer, all the way, until the star, rising out of the 
valley beyond Mar Elias, stood still over a house up on the 
slope of the hill near the town. 



Chapter XIV. 

It was now the beginning of the third watch, and at 
Bethlehem the morning was breaking over the mountains 
in the east, but so feebly that it was yet night in the valley. 
The watchman on the roof of the old khan, shivering in the 
chilly air, was listening for the first distinguishable sounds 
with which life, awakening, greets the dawn, when a light 
came moving up the hill towards the house. He thought 
it a torch in some one's hand ; next moment he thought it 
a meteor; the brilliance grew, however, until it became a 
star. Sore afraid, he cried out, and brought everybody 
within the walls to the roof. The phenomenon, in eccentric 
motion, continued to approach ; the rocks, trees, and road- 
way under it shone as in a glare of lightning ; directly its 
brightness became blinding. The more timid of the behold- 
ers fell upon their knees, and prayed, with their faces hidden ; 
the boldest, covering their eyes, crouched, and now and then 
snatched glances fearfully. Afterwhile the khan and every- 
thing thereabout lay under the intolerable radiance. Such 
as dared look beheld the star standing still directly over the 
house in front of the cave where the Child had been born. 

In the height of this scene, the wise men came up, and at 
the gate dismounted from their camels, and shouted for ad- 



BEl^-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. '75 

mission. When the steward so far mastered his terror as 
to give them heed, he drew the bars and opened to them. 
The camels looked spectral in the unnatural light, and, be- 
sides their outlandish bess, there were in the faces and man- 
ner of the three visitors an eagerness and exaltation which 
still further excited the keeper's fears and fancy ; he fell 
back, and for a time could not answer the question they put 
to him. 

" Is not this Bethlehem of Judea ?" 

But others came, and by their presence gave him assurance. 

" No, this is but the khan ; the town lies farther on." 

" Is there not here a child newly born ?" 

The bystanders turned to each other marvelling, though 
some of them answered, " Yes, yes." 

" Show us to him !" said the Greek, impatiently. 

" Show us to him !" cried Balthasar, breaking through his 
gravity ; " for we have seen his star, even that which ye be- 
hold over the house, and are come to worship him." 

The Hindoo clasped his hands, exclaiming, " God indeed 
lives ! Make haste, make haste ! The Saviour is found. 
Blessed, blessed are we above men !" 

The people from the roof came down and followed the 
strangers as they were taken through the court and out into 
the enclosure ; at sight of the star yet above the cave, though 
less candescent than before, some turned back afraid; the 
greater part went on. As the strangers neared the house, 
the orb arose ; when they were at the door, it was high up 
overhead vanishing ; when they entered, it went out lost to 
sight. And to the witnesses of what then took place came 
a conviction that there was a divine relation between the 
star and the strangers, which extended also to at least some 
of the occupants of the cave. When the door was opened, 
they crowded in. 

The apartment was lighted by a lantern enough to enable 
the strangers to find the mother, and the child awake in her 
lap. 

" Is the child thine ?" asked Balthasar of Mary. 

And she who had kept all the things in the least affect- 
ing the little one, and pondered them in her heart, held it 
up in the light, saying. 



76 BEN-HUR: A TALE OP THE CHRIST. 

" He is my son !" 

And they fell down and worshipped him. 

They saw the child was as other children : about its head 
was neither nimbus nor material crown ; its lips opened not 
in speech ; if it heard their expressions of joy, their invoca- 
tions, their prayers, it made no sign whatever, but, baby-like, 
looked longer at the flame in the lantern than at them. 

In a little while they arose, and, returning to the camels, 
brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and laid 
them before the child, abating nothing of their worshipful 
speeches; of which no part is given, for the thoughtful 
know that the pure worship of the pure heart was then 
what it is now, and has always been, an inspired song. 

And this was the Saviour they had come so far to find I 

Yet they worshipped without a doubt. 

Why? 

Their faith rested upon the signs sent them by him whom 
we have since come to know as the Father ; and they were 
of the kind to whom his promises were so all-suflficient that 
they asked nothing about his ways. Few there were who 
had seen the signs and heard the promises — the Mother and 
Joseph, the shepherds, and the Three — yet they all believed 
alike ; that is to say, in this period of the plan of salvation, 
God was all and the Child nothing. But look forward, O 
reader ! A time will come when the signs will all proceed 
from the Son. Happy they who then believe in him I 

Let us wait that period. 



BEN-HUB: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 77 



BOOK SECOND. 



"There is a fire 
And motion of the soul which will not dwell 
In its own narrow being, but aspire 
Beyond the fitting medium of desire ; 
And, but once kindled, quenchless evermore, 
Preys upon high adventure, nor can tire 
Of aught but rest/' 

ChUde Harold. 



Chapter I. 

It is necessary now to carry the reader forward twenty- 
one years, to the beginning of the administration of Vale- 
rius Gratus, the fourth imperial governor of Judea — ^a period 
which will be remembered as rent by political agitations in 
Jerusalem, if, indeed, it be not the precise time of the open- 
ing of the final quarrel between the Jew and the Roman. 

In the interval Judea had been subjected to changes af- 
fecting her in many ways, but in nothing so much as her 
political status. Herod the Great died within one year 
after the birth of the Child— died so miserably that the 
Christian world had reason to believe him overtaken by the 
Divine wrath. Like all great rulera who spend their lives in 
perfecting the power they create, he dreamed of transmit- 
ting his throne and crown — of being the founder of a 
dynasty. With that intent, he left a will dividing his ter- 
ritories between his three sons, Antipas, Philip, and Arche- 
laus, of whom the last was appointed to succeed to the title. 
The testament was necessarily referred to Augustus, the em- 
peror, who ratified all its provisions with one exception : he 
withheld from Archelaas the title of king until he proved 



78 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

his capacity and loyalty ; in lieu thereof, he created him 
ethnarch, and as such permitted him to govern nine years, 
when, for misconduct and inability to stay the turbulent 
elements that grew and strengthened around him, he was 
sent into Gaul as an exile. 

Caesar was not content with deposing Archelaus; he 
struck the people of Jerusalem in a manner that touched 
their pride, and keenly wounded the sensibilities of the 
haughty habitu6s of the Temple. He reduced Judea to a 
Roman province, and annexed it to the prefecture of Syria. 
So, instead of a king ruling royally from the palace left by 
Herod on Mount Zion, the city fell into the hands of an of- 
ficer of the second grade, an appointee called procurator, 
who communicated with the court in Rome through the 
Legate of Syria, residing in Antioch. To make the hurt 
more painful, the procurator was not permitted to establish 
himself in Jerusalem ; Caesarea was his seat of government. 
Most humiliating, however, most exasperating, most studied, 
Samaria, of all the world the most despised — Samaria was 
joined to Judea as a part of the same province ! What in- 
effable misery the bigoted Separatists or Pharisees endured 
at finding themselves elbowed and laughed at in the procu- 
rator's presence in Caesarea by the devotees of Gerizim ! 

In this rain of sorrows, one consolation, and one only, 
remained to the fallen people : the high-priest occupied the 
Herodian palace in the market-place, and kept the sem- 
blance of a court there. What his authority really was is 
a matter of easy estimate. Judgment of life and death was 
retained by the procurator. Justice was administered in 
the name and according to the decretals of Rome. Yet 
more significant, the royal house was jointly occupied by the 
imperial exciseman, and all his corps of assistants, registrars, 
collectors, publicans, informers, and spies. Still, to the 
dreamers of liberty to come, there was a certain satisfaction 
in the fact that the chief ruler in the palace was a Jew. His 
mere presence there day after day kept them reminded of 
the covenants and the promises of the prophets, and the ages 
when Jehovah governed the tribes through the sons of 
Aaron ; it was to them a certain sign that he had not aban- 
doned them : so their hopes lived, and served their patience, 



BEN-HUR; A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 79 

and helped them wait grimly the son of Judah who was to 
rule Israel. 

Jiidca had been a Eoman province eipjhty years and more 
— ample time for the Csesars to study the idiosyncrasies of 
the people — time enough, at least, to learn that the Jew, 
with all his pride, could be quietly goveraed if his religion 
were respected. Proceeding upon that policy, the predeces- 
sors of Gratus had carefully abstained from interfering with 
any of the sacred observances of their subjects. But he 
chose a different course : almost his first official act was to 
expel Hannas from the high-priesthood, and give the place 
to Ishmael, son of Fabus. 

Whether the act was directed by Augustus, or proceeded 
from Gratus himself, its impolicy became speedily apparent. 
The reader shall be spared a chapter on Jewish politics ; a 
few words upon the subject, however, are essential to such 
as may follow the succeeding narration critically. At this 
time, leaving origin out of view, there were in Judea the 
party of the nobles and the Separatist or popular party. 
Upon Herod's death, the two united against Archelaus ; 
from temple to palace, from Jerusalem to Rome, they fought 
him ; sometimes with intrigue, sometimes with the actual 
weapons of war. More than once the holy cloisters on 
Moriah resounded with the cries of fighting-men. Finally, 
they drove him into exile. Meantime throughout this 
struggle the allies had their diverse objects in view. The 
nobles hated Joazar, the high-priest; the Separatists, on 
the other hand, wore his zealous adherents. When Herod's 
settlement went down with Archelaus, Joazar shared the 
fall. Hannas, the son of Seth, was selected by the nobles to 
fill the great office ; thereupon the allies divided. The m- 
duction of the Sethian brought them face to face in fierce 
hostility. 

In the course of the struggle with the unfortunate eth- 
narch, the nobles had found it expedient to attach them- 
selves to Rome. Discerning that when the existing settle- 
ment was broken up some form of government must needs 
follow, they suggested the conversion of Judea into a prov- 
ince. The fact furnished the Separatists an additional 
cause for attack ; and, when Samaria was made part of the 



80 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

province, the nobles sank into a minority, with nothing to 
support them but the imperial court and the prestige of 
their rank and wealth ; yet for fifteen years— down, indeed, 
to the coming of Valerius Gratus — they managed to main- 
tain themselves in both palace and Temple. 

Hannas, the idol of his party, had used his power faith- 
fully in the interest of his imperial patron. A Roman gar- 
rison held the Tower of Antonia ; a Roman guard kept the 
gates of the palace; a Roman judge dispensed justice civil 
and criminal ; a Roman system of taxation, mercilessly ex- 
ecuted, crushed both city and country ; daily, hourly, and 
in a thousand ways, the people were bruised and galled, and 
taught the difference between a life of independence and a 
life of subjection ; yet Hannas kept them in comparative 
quiet. Rome had no truer friend ; and he made his loss 
instantly felt. Delivering his vestments to Ishmael, the new 
appointee, he walked from the courts of the Temple into 
the councils of the Separatists, and became the head of a 
new combination, Bethusian and Sethian. 

Gratus, the procurator, left thus without a party, saw the 
fires which, in the fifteen years, had sunk into sodden smoke 
begin to glow with returning life. A month after Ishmael 
took the oflSce, the Roman found it necessary to visit him 
in Jerusalem. When from the walls, hooting and hissing 
him, the Jews beheld his guard enter the north gate of the 
city and march to the Tower of Antonia, they understood 
the real purpose of the visit — a full cohort of legionaries was 
added to the former garrison, and the keys of their yoke 
could now be tightened with impunity. If the procurator 
deemed it important to make an example, alas for the first 
offender ! 



Chapter IL 

With the foregoing explanation in mind, the reader is 
invited to look into one of the gardens of the palace on 
Mount Zion. The time was noonday in the middle of 
July, when the heat of summer was at its highest. 

The garden was bounded on every side by bmldings. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. Qi 

which in places arose two stories, with verandas shading 
the doors and windows of the lower story, while retreating 
galleries, guarded by strong balustrades, adorned and pro- 
tected the upper. Here and there, moreover, the structures 
fell into what appeared low colonnades, permitting the pas- 
sage of such winds as chanced to blow, and allowing other 
parts of the house to be seen, the better to realize its mag- 
nitude and beauty. The arrangement of the ground was 
equally pleasant to the eye. There were walks, and patch- 
es of grass and shrubbery, and a few large trees, rare spec- 
imens of the palm, grouped with the carob, apricot, and 
walnut. In all directions the grade sloped gently from the 
centre, where there was a reservoir, or deep marble basin, 
broken at intervals by little gates which, when raised, emp- 
tied the water into sluices bordering the walks — a cunning 
device for the rescue of the place from the aridity too prev- 
alent elsewhere in the region. 

Not far from the fountain, there was a small pool of clear 
water nourishing a clump of cane and oleander, such as 
grow on the Jordan and down by the Dead Sea. Between 
the clump and the pool, unmindful of the sun shining full 
upon them in the breathless air, two boys, one about nine- 
teen, the other seventeen, sat engaged in earnest conversa- 
tion. 

They were both handsome, and, at first glance, would have 
been pronounced brothers. Both had hair and eyes black ; 
their faces were deeply browned ; and, sitting, they seemed 
of a size proper for the difference in their ages. 

The elder was bareheaded. A loose tunic, dropping to 
the knees, was his attire complete, except sandals and a light- 
blue mantle spread under him on the seat. The costume 
left his arms and legs exposed, and they were brown as the 
face ; nevertheless, a certain grace of manner, refinement of 
features, and culture of voice decided his rank. The tunic, 
of softest woollen, gray-tinted, at the neck, sleeves, and edge 
of the skirt bordered with red, and bound to the waist by 
a tasselled silken cord, certified him the Roman he was. 
And if in speech he now and then gazed haughtily at his 
companion and addressed him as an inferior, he might al- 
most be excused, for he was of a family noble even in 




82 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

Rome — a circumstance which in that age justified any as- 
sumption. In the terrible wars between the first Caesar and 
his great enemies, a Messala had been the friend of Brutus. 
After Philippi, without sacrifice of his honor, he and the 
conqueror became reconciled. Yet later, when Octavius 
disputed for the empire, Messala supported him. Octavius, 
as the Emperor Augustus, remembered the service, and show- 
ered the family with honors. Among other things, Judea 
being reduced to a province, he sent the son of his old cli- 
ent or retainer to Jerusalem, charged with the receipt and 
management of the taxes levied in that region ; and in that 
service the son had since remained, sharing the palace with 
the high-priest. The youth just described was his son, 
whose habit it was to carry about with him all too faith- 
fully a remembrance of the relation between his grandfa- 
ther and the great Romans of his day. 

The associate of the Messala was slighter in form, and his 
garments were of fine white linen and of the prevalent style 
in Jenisalem ; a cloth covered his head, held by a yellow 
cord, and arranged so as to fall away from the forehead 
down low over the back of the neck. An observer skilled 
in the distinctions of race, and studying his features more 
than his costume, would have soon discovered him to be 
of Jewish descent. The forehead of the Roman was high 
and narrow, his nose sharp and aquiline, while his lips were 
thin and straight, and his eyes cold and close under the 
brows. The front of the Israelite, on the other hand, was 
low and broad ; his nose long, with expanded nostrils ; his 
upper lip, slightly shading the lower one, short and curving 
to the dimpled corners, likte a Cupid's bow ; points which, 
in connection with the round chin, full eyes, and oval 
cheeks reddened with a wine-like glow, gave his face the 
softness, strength, and beauty peculiar to his race. The 
comeliness of the Roman was severe and chaste, that of the 
Jew rich and voluptuous. 

"Did you not say the new procurator is to arrive to- 
morrow ?" 

The question proceeded from the younger of the friends, 
and was couched in Greek, at the time, singularly enough, 
the language everywhere prevalent in the politer circles of 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF I'HE CHRIST. 83 

Jadea; having passed from the palace into the camp and 
collepfe ; thence, nobody knew exactly when or how, into 
the Temple itself, and, for that matter, into precincts of the 
Temple far beyond the gates and cloisters — precincts of a 
sanctity intolerable for a Gentile. 

" Yes, to-morrow," Messala answered. 

"Who told you?" 

" I heard Ishmael, the new governor in the palace — you 
call him high-priest — tell my father so last night. The 
news had been more credible, I grant you, coming from an 
Egyptian, who is of a race that has forgotten what truth 
is, or even from an Idumsean, whose people never knew 
what truth was ; but, to make quite certain, I saw a centu- 
rion from the Tower this morning, and he told me prep- 
arations were going on for the reception ; that the armor- 
ers were furbishing the helmets and shields, and regild- 
ing the eagles and globes; and that apartments long un- 
used were being cleansed and aired as if for an addition 
to the garrison — the body-guard, probably, of the great 
man." 

A perfect idea of the manner in which the answer was 
given cannot be conveyed, as its fine points continually es- 
cape the power behind the pen. The reader's fancy must 
come to his aid; and for that he must be reminded that 
reverence as a quality of the Roman mind was fast break- 
ing down, or, rather, it was becoming imfashionable. The 
old religion had nearly ceased to be a faith ; at most it was 
a mere habit of thought and expression, cherished princi- 
pally by the priests who found service in the Temple prof- 
itable, and the poets who, in the turn of their verses, could 
not dispense with the familiar deities : there are singers of 
this age who are similarly given. As philosophy was tak- 
ing the place of religion, satire was fast substituting rever- 
ence; insomuch that in Latin opinion it was to every 
speech, even to the little diatribes of conversation, salt to 
viands, and aroma to wine. The young Messala, educated in 
Rome, but lately returned, had caught the habit and man- 
ner; the scarce perceptible movement of the outer comer 
of the lower eyelid, the decided curl of the corresponding 
nostril, and a languid utterance afEected as the best vehicle 



84 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

to convey the idea of general indifference, but more par- 
ticularly because of the opportunities it afforded for certain 
rhetorical pauses thought to be of prime importance to en- 
able the listener to take the happy conceit or receive the 
virus of the stinging epigram. Such a stop occurred in the 
answer just given, at the end of the allusion to the Egyp- 
tian and Idumaean. The color in the Jewish lad's cheeks 
deepened, and he may not have heard the rest of the 
speech, for he remained silent, looking absently into the 
depths of the pool. 

" Our farewell took place in this garden. ' The peace of 
the Lord go with you !' — your last words. * The gods keep 
you !' I said. Do you remember ? How many years have 
passed since then ?" 

" Five," answered the Jew, gazing into the water. 

"Well, you have reason to be thankful to — whom shall 
I say? The gods? No matter. You have grown hand- 
some ; the Greeks would call you beautiful — happy achieve- 
ment of the years! If Jupiter would stay content with 
one Ganymede, what a cup-bearer you would make for the 
emperor ! Tell me, my Judah, how the coming of the proc- 
urator is of such interest to you." 

Judah bent his large eyes upon the questioner ; the gaze 
was grave and thoughtful, and caught the Roman's, and 
held it while he replied, "Yes, five years. I remember the 
parting ; you went to Rome ; I saw you start, and cried, 
for I loved you. The years are gone, and you have come 
back to me accomplished and princely — I do not jest ; and 
yet — yet — I wish you were the Messala you went away." 

The fine nostril of the satirist stirred, and he put on a 
longer drawl as he said, "No, no; not a Ganymede — an 
oracle, my Judah. A few lessons from my teacher of rhet- 
oric hard by the Forum — I will give you a letter to him 
when you become wise enough to accept a suggestion which 
I am reminded to make you — a little practice of the art of 
mystery, and Delphi will receive you as Apollo himself. 
At the sound of your solemn voice, the Pythia will come 
down to you with her crown. Seriously, O my friend, in 
what am I not the Messala I went away ? I once heard the 
greatest logician in the world. His subject was Disputa- 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 85 

tion. One saying I remember — * Understand your antago- 
nist before you answer him.' Let me understand you." 

The lad reddened under the cynical look to which he was 
subjected ; yet he replied, firmly, " You have availed your- 
self, I see, of your opportunities ; from your teachers you 
have brought away much knowledge and many graces. You 
talk with the ease of a master ; yet your speech carries a 
sting. My Messala, when he went away, had no poison in 
his nature ; not for the world would he have hurt the feel- 
ings of a friend." 

The Roman smiled as if complimented, and raised his 
patrician head a toss higher. 

" O my solemn Judah, we are not at Dodona or Pytho. 
Drop the oracular, and be plain. "Wherein have I hurt 
you ?" 

The other drew a long breath, and said, pulling at the 
cord about his waist, " In the five years, I, too, have learned 
somewhat. Hillel may not be the equal of the logician you 
heard, and Simeon and Shammai are, no doubt, inferior to 
your master hard by the Forum. Their learning goes not out 
into forbidden paths; those who sit at their feet arise en- 
riched simply with knowledge of God, the law, and Israel ; 
and the effect is love and reverence for everything that per- 
tains to them. Attendance at the Great College, and study 
of what I heard there, have taught me that Judea is not as 
she used to be. I know the space that lies between an in- 
dependent kingdom and the petty province Judea is. I were 
meaner, viler, than a Samaritan not to resent the degradation 
of my country. Ishmael is not lawfully high-priest, and he 
cannot be while the noble Hannas lives ; yet he is a Levite ; 
one of the devoted who for thousands of years have accept- 
ably served the Lord God of our faith and worship. His — " 

Messala broke in upon him with a biting laugh. 

"Oh, I understand you now. Ishmael, you say, is a 
usurper, yet to believe an Idumjean sooner than Ishmael is 
to sting like an adder. By the drunken son of Semele, what 
it is to be a Jew 1 All men and things, even heaven and 
earth, change ; but a Jew never. To him there is no back- 
ward, no forward ; he is what his ancestor was in the begin- 
ning. In this sand I draw you a circle — there I Now tell 



36 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

me what more a Jew'8 life is ? Round and round, Abraham 
here, Isaac and Jacob yonder, God in the middle. And the 
circle — by the master of all thunders ! the circle is too large. 
I draw it again — " He stopped, put his thumb upon the 
ground, and swept the fingers about it. " See, the thumb 
spot is the Temple, the finger-lines Judea. Outside the lit- 
tle space is there nothing of value ? The arts ! Herod was 
a builder ; therefore he is accursed. Painting, sculpture ! 
to look upon them is sin. Poetry you make fast to your 
altars. Except in the synagogue, who of you attempts elo- 
quence ? In war all you conquer in the six days you lose 
on the seventh. Such your life and limit ; who shall say no 
if I laugh at you ? Satisfied with the worship of such a 
people, what is your God to our Roman Jove, who lends us 
his eagles that we may compass the universe with our arms ? 
Hillel, Simeon, Shammai, Abtalion — what are they to the 
masters who teach that everything is worth knowing that 
can be known 1" 

The Jew arose, his face much flushed. 

" No, no ; keep your place, my Judah, keep your place," 
Messala cried, extending his hand. 

" You mock me." 

" Listen a little further. Directly " — the Roman smiled 
derisively — " directly Jupiter and his whole family, Greek 
and Latin, will come to me, as is their habit, and make an 
end of serious speech. I am mindful of your goodness in 
walking from the old house of your fathers to welcome me 
back and renew the love of our childhood — if we can. ' Go,' 
said my teacher, in his last lecture — ' Go, and, to make your 
lives great, remember Mars reigns and Eros has found his 
eyes. He meant love is nothing, war everything. It is so 
in Rome. Marriage is the first step to divorce. Virtue is 
a tradesman's jewel. Cleopatra, dying, bequeathed her arts, 
and is avenged ; she has a successor in every Roman's house. 
The world is going the same way; so, as to our future, 
down Eros, up Mars ! I am to be a soldier ; and you, O my 
Judah, I pity you ; what can you be ?" 

The Jew moved nearer the pool ; Messala's drawl deep- 
ened. 

" Yes, I pity you, my fine Judah. From the college to 



BEN-nUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 87 

the synagogue ; then to the Temple ; then — oh, a crowning 
glory ! — the seat in the Sanhedrim. A life without oppor- 
tunities ; the gods help you ! But I — " 

Judah looked at him in time to see the flush of pride that 
kindled in his haughty face as he went on. 

" But I — ah, the world is not all conquered. The sea has 
islands unseen. In the north there are nations yet unvisited. 
The glory of completing Alexander's march to the Far East 
remains to some one. See what possibilities lie before a 
Roman." 

Next instant he resumed his drawl. 

*' A campaign into Africa ; another after the Scythian ; 
then — a legion ! Most careers end there ; but not mine. I 
— by Jupiter ! what a conception ! — I will give up my legion 
for a prefecture. Think of life in Rome with money — 
money, wine, women, games — poets at the banquet, intrigues 
in the court, dice all the year round. Such a rounding of 
life may be — a fat prefecture, and it is mine. O ray Judah, 
here is Syria! Judea is rich; Antioch a capital for the 
gods. I will succeed Cy renins, and you — shall share ray 
fortune." 

The sophists and rhetoricians who thronged the public 
resorts of Rome, almost monopolizing the business of teach- 
ing her patrician youth, might have approved these sayings 
of Messala, for they were all in the popular vein ; to the 
young Jew, however, they were new, and unlike the solemn 
style of discourse and conversation to which he was accus- 
tomed. He belonged, moreover, to a race whose laws, modes, 
and habits of thought forbade satire and humor; very nat- 
urally, therefore, he listened to his friend with varying feel- 
ings; one moment indignant, then uncertain how to take 
him. The superior airs assumed had been offensive to him 
in the beginnrag ; soon they became irritating, and at last 
an acute smart. Anger lies close by this point in all of us ; 
and that the satirist evoked in another way. To the Jew 
of the Herodian period patriotism was a savage passion 
scarcely hidden under his common humor, and so related to 
his history, religion, and God that it responded instantly to 
derision of them. Wherefore it is not speaking too strong- 
Iv to say that Messala's progress down to the last pause was 



88 BEN-HUR : A TALE OE THB CHRIST. 

exquisite torture to his hearer ; at that point the latter said, 
with a forced smile, 

" There are a few, I have heard, who can afford to make 
a jest of their future ; you convince me, O my Messala, that 
I am not one of them." 

The Roman studied him ; then replied, *' Why not the 
truth in a jest as well as a parable? The great Fulvia went 
fishing the other day ; she caught more than all the com- 
pany besides. They said it was because the barb of her hook 
was covered with gold." 

"Then you were not merely jesting?" 

" My Judah, I see I did not offer you enough," the Ro- 
man answered, quickly, his eyes sparkling. '* When I am 
prefect, with Judea to enrich me, I — will make you high- 
priest." 

The Jew turned off angrily. 

" Do not leave me," said Slessala. 

The other stopped irresolute. 

" Gods, Judah, how hot the sun shines 1" cried the patri- 
cian, observing his perplexity. " Let us seek a shade." 

Judah answered, coldly, 

" We had better part. I wish I had not come. I sought 
a friend and find a — " 

" Roman," said Messala, quickly. 

The hands of the Jew clenched, but controlling himself 
again, he started off. Messala arose, and, taking the mantle 
from the bench, flung it over his shoulder, and followed 
after ; when he gained his side, he put his hand upon his 
shoulder and walked with him. 

" This is the way — my hand thus — we used to walk when 
we were children. Let us keep it as far as the gate." 

Apparently Messala was trying to be serious and kind, 
though he could not rid his countenance of the habitual sa- 
tirical expression. Judah permitted the familiarity. 

" You are a boy ; I am a man ; let me talk like one." 

The complacency of the Roman was superb. Mentor 
lecturing the young Telemachus could not have been more 
at ease. 

" Do you believe in the Parcae ? Ah, I forgot, you are a 
Sadducee: the Essenes are your sensible people; they be- 



BEN-HII&: A TALE OP THE CHRIST. 89 

lieve in the sisters. So do I. How everlastingly the three 
are in the way of our doing what wo please ! I sit down 
scheming. I run paths here and there. Perpol! Just 
when I am reaching to take the world in hand, I hear be- 
hind me the grinding of scissors. I look, and there she is, 
the accursed Atropos ! But, my Judah, why did you get 
mad when I spoke of succeeding old Cyrenius? You 
thought I meant to enrich myself plundering your Judea. 
Suppose so; it is what some Roman will do. Why not 

ir 

Judah shortened his step. 

" There have been strangers in mastery of Judea before 
the Roman," he said, with lifted hand. " Where are they, 
Messala ? She has outlived them all. What has been will 
be again." 

Messala put on his drawl. 

" The Parca3 have believers outside the Essenes. Wel- 
come, Judah, welcome to the faith !" 

" No, Messala, count me not with them. My faith rests 
on the rock which was the foundation of the faith of my 
fathers back further than Abraham ; on the covenants of the 
Lord God of Israel." 

*' Too much passion, my Judah. How my master would 
have been shocked had I been guilty of so much heat in his 
presence ! There were other things I had to tell you, but I 
fear to now." 

When they had gone a few yards, the Roman spoke again. 

" I think you can hear me now, especially as what I have 
to say concerns yourself. I would serve you, O handsome 
as Ganymede; I would serve you with real good-will. I 
love you — all I can. I told you I meant to be a soldier. 
Why not you also ? Why not you step out of the narrow 
circle which, as I have shown, is all of noble life your laws 
and customs allow?" 

Judah made no reply. 

" Who are the wise men of our day ?" Messala continued. 
" Not they who exhaust their years quarrelling about dead 
things ; about Baals, Joves, and Jehovahs ; about philoso- 
phies and religions. Give me one great name, O Judah ; I 
care not where you go to find it — to Rome, Egypt, the East, 



90 BEX-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

or here in Jerusalem — Pluto take me if it belong not to a 
man who wrought his fame out of the material furnished 
him by the present; holding nothing sacred that did not 
contribute to the end, scorning nothing that did ! How was 
it with Herod? How with the Maccabees? How with the 
first and second Caesars? Imitate them. Begin now. At 
hand see — Rome, as ready to help you as she was the Idu- 
maean Antipater." 

The Jewish lad trembled with rage ; and, as the garden 
gate was close by, he quickened his steps, eager to escape. 

" O Rome, Rome !" he muttered. 

" Be wise," continued Messala. " Give up the follies of 
Moses and the traditions ; see the situation as it is. Dare 
look the Parcae in the face, and they will tell you, Rome is 
the world. Ask them of Judea, and they will answer, She 
is what Rome wills." 

They were now at the gate. Judah stopped, and took 
the hand gently from his shoulder, and confronted Messala, 
tears trembling in his eyes. 

*' I understand you, because you are a Roman ; you can- 
not understand me — I am an Israelite. You have given 
me suffering to-day by convincing me that we can never be 
the friends we have been — never! Here we part. The 
peace of the God of my fathers abide with you !" 

Messala offered him his hand ; the Jew walked on through 
the gateway. When he was gone, the Roman was silent 
awhile ; then he, too, passed through, saying to himself, 
with a toss of the head, 

" Be it so. Eros is dead. Mars reigns !" 



Chapter III. 

From the entrance to the Holy City, equivalent to what 
is now called St. Stephen^s Gate, a street extended west- 
wardly, on a line parallel with the northern front of the 
Tower of Antonia, though a square from that famous cas- 
tle. Keeping the course as far as the Tyropoeon Valley, 
which it followed a little way south, it turned and again ran 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 91 

west until a short distance beyond what tradition tells us 
was the Judgment Gate, from whence it broke abruptly 
south. The traveller or the student familiar with the sa- 
cred locality will recognize the thoroughfare described as 
part of the Via Dolorosa — with Christians of more interest, 
though of a melancholy kind, than any street in the world. 
As the purpose in view does not at present require dealing 
with the whole street, it will be sutficient to point out a 
house standing in the angle last mentioned as marking the 
change of direction south, and which, as an important cen- 
tre of interest, needs somewhat particular description. 

The building fronted north and west, probably four hun- 
dred feet each way, and, like most pretentious Eastern struct- 
ures, was two stories in height, and perfectly quadrangular. 
The street on the west side was about twelve feet wide, that 
on the north not more than ten ; so that one walking close 
to the walls, and looking up at them, would have been struck 
by the rude, unfinished, uninviting, but strong and impos- 
ing, appearance they presented ; for they were of stone laid 
in large blocks, undressed — on the outer side, in fact, just as 
they were taken from the quarry. A critic of this age 
would have pronounced the house fortelesque in style, ex- 
cept for the windows, with which it was unusually garnished, 
and the ornate finish of the doorways or gates. The west- 
ern windows were four in number, the northern only two, 
all set on the line of the second story in such manner as to 
overhang the thoroughfares below. The gates were the 
only breaks of wall externally visible in the first story ; and, 
besides being so thickly riven with iron bolts as to suggest 
resistance to battering-rams, they were protected by cornices 
of marble, handsomely executed, and of such bold projec- 
tion as to assure visitors well informed of the people that 
the rich man who resided there was a Sadducee in politics 
and creed. 

Not long after the young Jew parted from the Roman at 
the palace up on the Market-place, he stopped before the 
western gate of the house described, and knocked. The 
wicket (a door hung in one of the valves of the gate) was 
opened to admit him. He stepped in hastily, and failed to 
acknowledge the low salaam of the porter. 



92 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

To get an idea of the interior arrangement of the struct- 
ure, as well as to see what more befell the youth, we will 
follow hino. 

The passage into which he was admitted appeared not 
unlike a narrow tunnel with panelled walls and pitted ceil- 
ing. There were benches of stone on both sides, stained 
and polished by long use. Twelve or fifteen steps carried 
him into a court-yard, oblong north and south, and in every 
quarter, except the east, bounded by what seemed the fronts 
of two-story houses; of which the lower floor was divided 
into lewens, while the upper was terraced and defended by 
strong balustrading. The servants coming and going along 
the terraces ; the noise of millstones grinding ; the garments 
fluttering from ropes stretched from point to point; the 
chickens and pigeons in full enjoyment of the place ; the 
goats, cows, donkeys, and horses stabled in the lewens ; a 
massive trough of water, apparently for the common use, 
declared this court appurtenant to the domestic manage- 
ment of the owner. Eastwardly there was a division wall 
broken by another passage-way in all respects like the first 
one. 

Clearing the second passage, the young man entered a 
second court, spacious, square, and set with shrubbery and 
vines, kept fresh and beautiful by water from a basin erect- 
ed near a porch on the north side. The lewens here were 
high, airy, and shaded by curtains striped alternate white 
and red. The arches of the lewens rested on clustered col- 
umns. A flight of steps on the south ascended to the ter- 
races of the upper story, over which great awnings were 
stretched as a defence against the sun. Another stairway 
reached from the terraces to the roof, the edge of which, 
all around the square, was defined by a sculptured cornice, 
and a parapet of burned-clay tiling, sexangular and bright- 
red. In this quarter, moreover, there was eveiywhere ob- 
servable a scrupulous neatness, which, allowing no dust in 
the angles, not even a yellow leaf upon a shrub, contributed 
quite as much as anything else to the delightful general 
effect; insomuch that a visitor, breathing the sweet air, 
knew, in advance of introduction, the refinement of the fam- 
ily he was about calling upon. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 93 

A few step8 within the second court, the lad turned to 
the right, and, choosing a walk through the shrubbery, part 
of which was in flower, passed to the stairway, and ascended 
to the terrace — a broad pavement of white and brown flags 
closely laid, and much worn. Making way under the awn- 
ing to a doorway on the north side, he entered an apart- 
ment which the dropping of the screen behind him returned 
to darkness. Nevertheless, he proceeded, moving over a tiled 
floor to a divan, upon which he flung himself, face down- 
wards, and lay at rest, his forehead upon his crossed arms. 

About nightfall a woman came to the door and called ; 
he answered, and she went in. 

" Supper is over, and it is night. Is not my son hungry ?" 
she asked. 

" No," he replied. 

" Are you sick ?" 

" I am sleepy." 

" Your mother has asked for you." 

" Where is she ?" 

" In the summer-house on the roof." 

He stirred himself, and sat up. 

" Veiy well. Bring me something to eat." 

" What do you want ?" 

" What you please, Amrah. I am not sick, but indiffer- 
ent. Life does not seem as pleasant as it did this morning. 
A new ailment, O my Amrah ; and you who know me so 
well, who never failed me, may think of the things now 
that answer for food and medicine. Bring me what you 
choose." 

Amrah's questions, and the voice in which she put them 
— low, sympathetic, and solicitous — were significant of an en- 
deared relation between the two. She laid her hand upon 
his forehead ; then, as satisfied, went out, saying, " I will 
see." 

After a while she returned, bearing on a wooden platter a 
bowl of milk, some thin cakes of white bread broken, a deli- 
cate paste of brayed wheat, a bird broiled, and honey and 
salt. On one end of the platter there was a silver goblet 
full of wine, on the other a brazen hand-lamp lighted. 

The room was then revealed: its walls smoothly plas- 



94 BEN-HUR : A TALE OP THE CHRIST. 

tered; the ceiling broken by great oaken rafters, brown 
with rain stains and time; the floor of small diamond- 
shaped white and blue tiles, very firm and endnring ; a few 
stools with legs carved in imitation of the legs of lions ; a 
divan raised a little above the floor, trimmed with blue cloth, 
and partially covered by an immense striped woollen blank- 
et or shawl — in brief, a Hebrew bedroom. 

The same light also gave the woman to view. Drawing 
a stool to the divan, she placed the platter upon it, then 
knelt close by ready to serve him. Her face was that of a 
woman of fifty, dark-skinned, dark-eyed, and at the moment 
softened by a look of tenderness almost maternal. A white 
turban covered her head, leaving the lobes of the ear ex- 
posed, and in them the sign that settled her condition — 
an orifice bored by a thick awl. She was a slave, of Egyp- 
tian origin, to whom not even the sacred fiftieth year could 
have brought freedom ; nor would she have accepted it, for 
the boy she was attending was her life. She had nursed 
him through babyhood, tended him as a child, and could 
not break the service. To her love he could never be a 
man. 

He spoke but once during the meal. 

"You remember, O my Amrah," he said, "the Messala 
who used to visit me here days at a time." 

" I remember him." 

" He went to Rome some years ago, and is now back. I 
called upon him to-day." 

A shudder of disgust seized the lad. 

" I knew something had happened," she said, deeply in- 
terested. " I never liked the Messala. Tell me all." 

But he fell into musing, and to her repeated inquiries 
only said, " He is much changed, and I shall have nothing 
more to do with him." 

When Amrah took the platter away, he also went out, 
and up from the terrace to the roof. 

The reader is presumed to know somewhat of the uses 
of the house-top in the East. In the matter of customs, cli- 
mate is a lawgiver everywhere. The Syrian summer day 
drives the seeker of comfort into the darkened lewen ; night, 
however, calls him forth early, and the sh^ows deepening 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OP THE CHRIST. 95 

over the mountain-sides seem veils dimly covering Circean 
aingers ; but they are far off, while the roof is close by, and 
raised above the level of the shimmerinpr phiin enough for 
the visitation of cool airs, and sufficiently above the trees 
to allure the stars down closer, down at least into brighter 
shining. So the roof became a resort — became playground, 
sleeping-chamber, boudoir, rendezvous for the family, place 
of music, dance, conversation, reverie, and prayer. 

The motive that prompts the decoration, at whatever cost, 
of interiors in colder climes suggested to the Oriental the 
embellishment of his house-top. The parapet ordered by 
Moses became a potter's triumph ; above that, later, arose 
towers, plain and fantastic; still later, kings and princes 
crowned their roofs with summer-houses of marble and gold. 
When the Babylonian hung gardens in the air, extrava- 
gance could push the idea no further. 

The lad whom we are following walked slowly across the 
house-top to a tower built over the northwest corner of the 
palace. Had he been a stranger, he might have bestowed a 
glance upon the structure as he drew nigh it, and seen all 
the dimness permitted — a darkened mass, low, latticed, pil- 
lared, and domed. He entered, passing under a half-raised 
curtain. The interior was all darkness, except that on four 
sides there were arched openings like doorways, through 
which the sky, lighted with stars, was visible. In one of the 
openings, reclining against a cushion from a divan, he saw 
the figure of a woman, indistinct even in white floating 
drapery. At the sound of his steps upon the floor, the fan 
in her hand stopped, glistening where the starlight struck 
the jewels with which it was sprinkled, and she sat up, and 
called his name. 

" Judah, my son 1" 

" It is I, mother," he answered, quickening his approach. 

Going to her, he knelt, and she put her arms around him, 
and with kisses pressed him to her bosom. 



96 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 



Chapter IV. 

The mother resumed her easy position against the cush- 
ion, while the son took place on the divan, his head in her 
lap. Both of them, looking out of the opening, could see 
a stretch of lower house-tops in the vicinity, a bank of blue- 
blackness over in the west which they knew to be moun- 
tains, and the sky, its shadowy depths brilliant with stars. 
The city was still. Only the winds stirred. 

"Amrah tells me something has happened to you," she 
said, caressing his cheek. " When my Judah was a child, I 
allowed small things to trouble him, but he is now a man. 
He must not forget" — her voice became very soft — "that 
one day he is to be my hero." 

She spoke in the language almost lost in the land, but 
which a few — and they were always as rich in blood as in 
possessions — cherished in its purity, that they might be 
more certainly distinguished from Gentile peoples — the lan- 
guage in which the loved Rebekah and Rachel sang to Ben- 
jamin. 

The words appeared to set him thinking anew ; after 
a while, however, he caught the hand with which she fanned 
him, and said, " To day, O my mother, I have been made to 
think of many things that never had place in my mind be- 
fore. Tell me, first, what am I to be ?" 

" Have I not told you ? You are to be my hero." 

He could not see her face, yet he knew she was in play. 
He became more serious. 

" You are very good, very kind, my mother. No one 
will ever love me as you do." 

He kissed the hand over and over again. 

" I think I understand why you would have me put off 
the question," he continued. "Thus far my life has be- 
longed to you. How gentle, how sweet your control has 
been ! I wish it could last forever. But that may not be. 
It is the Lord's will that I shall one day become owner of 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 97 

myself — a day of separation, and therefore a dreadful day 
to you. Let us be brave and serious. I will be your hero, 
but yon must put me in the way. You know the law — 
every son of Israel must have some occupation. I am not 
exempt, and ask now, shall I tend the herds ? or till the soil ? 
or drive the saw? or be a clerk or lawyer? What shall I 
be ? Dear, good mother, help me to an answer." 

*' Gamaliel has been lecturing to-day/' sho said, thought- 
fully. 

" If so, I did not hear him." 

" Then you have been walking with Simeon, who, they 
tell me, inherits the genius of his family.'* 

" No, I have not seen him. I have been up on the Mar- 
ket-place, not to the Temple. I visited the young Messala." 

A certain change in his voice attracted the mother's at- 
tention. A presentiment quickened the beating of her 
heart ; the fan became motionless again. 

"The Messala!" she said. "What could he say to so 
trouble you ?" 

" He is very much changed." 

" You mean he has come back a Roman." 

"Yes." 

" Roman I" she continued, half to herself. " To all the 
world the word means master. How long has he been 
away ?" 

" Five years." 

She raised her head, and looked ofE into the night. 

" The airs of the Via Sacra are well enough in the streets 
of the Egyptian and in Babylon ; but in Jerusalem — our 
Jerusalem — the covenant abides." 

And, full of the thought, she settled back into her easy 
place. He was first to speak. 

" What Messala said, my mother, was sharp enough in 
itself; but, taken with the manner, some of the sayings 
were intolerable." 

" I think I understand you. Rome, her poets, orators, 
senators, courtiers, are mad with affectation of what they 
call satire." 

"I suppose all great peoples are proud," he went on, 
Bcarcely noticing the interruption ; " but the pride of tkat* 
7 



98 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

people is unlike all others; in these latter days it is so 
grown the gods barely escape it." 

" The gods escape !" said the mother, quickly. " More 
than one Roman has accepted worship as his divine right." 

" Well, Messala always had his share of the disagreeable 
quality. When he was a child, I have seen him mock 
strangers whom even Herod condescended to receive with 
honors ; yet he always spared Judea. For the first time, in 
conversation with me to-day, he trifled with our customs 
and God. As you would have had me do, I parted with 
him finally. And now, O my dear mother, I would know 
with more certainty if there be just ground for the Roman's 
contempt. In what am I his inferior ? Is ours a lower or- 
der of people ? Why should I, even in Caesar's presence, 
feel the shrinking of a slave ? Tell me especially why, if I 
have the soal, and so choose, I may not hunt the honors of 
the world in all its fields ? Why may not I take sword and 
indulge the passion of war? As a poet, why may not I 
aing of all themes ? I can be a worker in metals, a keeper 
of flocks, a merchant, why not an artist like the Greek? 
Tell me, O my mother — and this is the sum of my trouble 
— why may not a son of Israel do all a Roman may ?" 

The reader will refer these questions back to the conver- 
sation in the Market-place; the mother, listening with all 
her faculties awake, from something which would have been 
lost upon one less interested in him — from the connections 
of the subject, the pointing of the questions, possibly his ac- 
cent and tone — was not less swift in making the same refer- 
ence. She sat up, and in a voice quick and sharp as his 
own, replied, " I see, I see ! From association Messala, in 
boyhood, was almost a Jew; had he remained here, he 
might have become a proselyte, so much do we all borrow 
from the influences that ripen our lives ; but the years in 
Rome have been too much for him. I do not wonder at 
the change ; yet " — her voice fell — " he might have dealt 
tenderly at least with you. It is a hard, cruel nature which 
in youth can forget its first loves." 

Her hand dropped lightly upon his forehead, and the fin- 
gers caught in his hair and lingered there lovingly, while her 
eyes sought the highest stars in view. Her pride responded 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 99 

to his, not merely in echo, but in the unison of perfect sym- 
pathy. She would answer him ; at the same time, not for 
the world would she have had the answer unsatisfactory; 
an admission of inferiority might weaken his spirit for life. 
She faltered with misgivings of her own powers. 

" What you propose, niy Judah, is not a subject for 
treatment by a woman. Let me put its consideration off 
till to-morrow, and I will have the wise Simeon — " 

" Do not send me to the Rector," he said, abruptly* 

" I will have him come to us." 

" No, I seek more than information ; while he might 
give me that better than you, O my mother, you can do 
better by giving me what he cannot — the resolution which 
is the soul of a man's soul." 

She swept the heavens with a rapid glance, trying to 
compass all the meaning of his questions. 

" While craving justice for ourselves, it is never wise to 
be unjust to others. To deny valor in the enemy we have 
conquered is to underrate our victory ; and if the enemy 
be strong enough to hold us at bay, much more to conquer 
us " — she hesitated — ** self-respect bids us seek some other 
explanation of our misfortunes than accusing him of quali- 
ties inferior to our own." 

Thus, speaking to herself rather than to him, she began : 

" Take heart, O my son. The Messala is nobly descended ; 
his family has been illustrious through many generations. 
In the days of Republican Rome — ^how far back I cannot 
tell — they were famous, some as soldiers, some as civilians. 
I can recall but one consul of the name ; their rank was sena- 
torial, and their patronage always sought because they were 
always rich. Yet if to-day your friend boasted of his ances- 
try, you might have shamed him by recounting yours. If 
he referred to the ages through which the line is traceable, 
or to deeds, rank, or wealth — such allusions, except when 
great occasion demands them, are tokens of small minds — 
if he mentioned them in proof of his superiority, then with- 
out dread, and standing on each particular, you might have 
challenged him to a comparison of records." 

Taking a moment^s thought, the mother proceeded : 

*< One of the ideas of mt hold now is that \xsda \]A& 



100 BEN.HUB: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

much to do with the nobility of races and families. A Ro- 
man boasting his superiority on that account over a son of 
Israel will always fail when put to the proof. The found- 
ing of Rome was his beginning ; the very best of them can- 
not trace their descent beyond that period ; few of them 
pretend to do so ; and of such as do, I say not one could 
make good his claim except by resort to tradition. Messala 
certainly could not. Let us look now to ourselves. Could 
we better ?" 

A little more light would have enabled him to see the 
pride that diffused itself over her face. 

" Let us imagine the Roman putting us to the challenge. 
I would answer him, neither doubting nor boastful." 

Her voice faltered ; a tender thought changed the form 
of the argument. 

" Your father, O my Judah, is at rest with his fathers ; 
yet I remember, as though it were this evening, the day he 
and I, with many rejoicing friends, went up into the Temple 
to present you to the Lord. We sacrificed the doves, and 
to the priest I gave your name, which he wrote in my pres- 
ence — ' Judah, son of Ithamar, of the House of Hur.' The 
name was then carried away, and written in a book of the 
division of records devoted to the saintly family. 

"I cannot tell you when the custom of registration in 
this mode began. We know it prevailed before the flight 
from Egypt. I have heard Hillel say Abraham caused the 
record to be first opened with his own name, and the names 
of his sons, moved by the promises of the Lord which sepa- 
rated him and them from all other races, and made them the 
highest and noblest, the very chosen of the earth. The 
covenant with Jacob was of like effect. * In thy seed shall 
all the nations of the earth be blessed ' — so said the angel 
to Abraham in the place Jehovah-jireh. * And the land 
whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed ' — 
so the Lord himself said to Jacob asleep at Bethel on the 
way to Haran. Afterwards the wise men looked forward 
to a just division of the land of promise ; and, that it might 
be known in the day of partition who were entitled to por- 
tions, the Book of Generations was begun. But not for 
that alone. The promise of a blessing to all the earth 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 101 

through the patriarch reached far into the future. One name 
was mentioned in connection with the blessing — the bene- 
factor might be the humblest of the chosen family, for the 
Lord our God knows no distinctions of rank or riches. So, 
to make the performance clear to men of the generation 
who were to witness it, and that they might give the glory 
to whom it belonged, the record was required to be kept 
with absolute certainty. Has it been so kept ?" 

The fan played to and fro, until, becoming impatient, he 
repeated the question, "Is the record absolutely true?" 

" Hillel said it was, and of all who have lived no one was 
80 well-informed upon the subject. Our people have at 
times been heedless of some parts of the law, but never of 
this part The good rector himself has followed the Books 
of Generations through three periods — from the promises to 
the opening of the Temple ; thence to the Captivity ; thence, 
again, to the present. Once only were the records disturbed, 
and that was at the end of the second period ; but when the 
nation returned from the long exile, as a first duty to God, 
Zerubbabel restored the Books, enabling us once more to 
carry the lines of Jewish descent back unbroken fully two 
thousand years. And now — " 

She paused as if to allow the hearer to measure the time 
comprehended in the statement. 

" And now," she continued, " what becomes of the Ro- 
man boast of blood enriched by ages ? By that test, the 
sons of Israel watching the herds on old Rephaim yonder 
are nobler than the noblest of the Marcii." 

" And I, mother — by the Books, who am I ?" 

"What I have said thus far, my son, had reference to 
your question. I will answer you. If Messala were here, he 
might say, as others have said, that the exact trace of your 
lineage stopped when the Assyrian took Jerusalem, and 
razed the Temple, with all its precious stores; but you 
might plead the pious action of Zerubbabel, and retort that 
all verity in Roman genealogy ended when the barbarians 
from the West took Rome, and camped six months upon 
her desolated site. Did the government keep family his- 
tories? If so, what became of them in those dreadful 
days ? No, no ; there is verity in our Books of Generations; 



102 BEN-flUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

and, following them back to the Captivity, back to the foun- 
dation of the first Temple, back to the march from Egypt, 
we have absolute assurance that you are lineally sprung 
from Hur, the associate of Joshua. In the matter of de- 
scent sanctified by time, is not the honor perfect ? Do you 
care to pursue further? If so, take the Torah, and search the 
Book of Numbers, and of the seventy-two generations after 
Adam, you can find the very progenitor of your house." 

There was silence for a time in the chamber on the roof. 

" I thank you, O my mother," Judah next said, clasping 
both her hands in his ; " I thank you with all my heart. I 
was right in not having the good rector called in ; he could 
not have satisfied me more than you have. Yet to make a 
family truly noble, is time alone sufficient ?" 

" Ah, you forget, you forget ; our claim rests not merely 
upon time ; the Lord's preference is our especial glory." 

"You are speaking of the race, and I, mother, of the 
family — our family. In the years since Father Abraham, 
what have they achieved ? What have they done ? What 
great things to lift them above the level of their fellows ?" 

She hesitated, thinking she might all this time have mis- 
taken his object. The information he sought might have 
been for more than satisfaction of wounded vanity. Youth 
is but the painted shell within which, continually growing, 
lives that wondrous thing the spirit of a man, biding its 
moment of apparition, earlier in some than in others. She 
trembled under a perception that this might be the su- 
preme moment come to him ; that as children at birth reach 
out their untried hands grasping for shadows, and crying 
the while, so his spirit might, in temporary blindness, be 
struggling to take hold of its impalpable future. They to 
whom a boy comes asking. Who am I, and what am I to be ? 
have need of ever so much care. Each word in answer 
may prove to the after-life what each finger-touch of the 
artist is to the clay he is modelling. 

" I have a feeling, O my Judah," she said, patting his 
cheek with the hand he had been caressing — " I have the 
feeling that all I have said has been in strife with an antag- 
onist more real than imaginary. If Messala is the enemy, do 
not leave me to fight him in the dark. Tell me all he said." 



BENHUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 103 



Chapter V. 

The young Israelite proceeded then, and rehearsed his con- 
versation with Messala, dwelling with particularity upon the 
latter's speeches in contempt of the Jews, their customs, and 
much pent round of life. 

Afraid to speak the while, the mother listened, discerning 
the matter plainly. Judah had gone to the palace on the 
Market-place, allured by love of a playmate whom he 
thought to find exactly as he had been at the parting years 
before ; a man met him, and, in place of laughter and refer- 
ences to the sports of the past, the man had been full of the 
future, and talked of glory to be won, and of riches and 
power. Unconscious of the effect, the visitor had come 
away hurt in pride, yet touched with a natural ambition ; 
but she, the jealous mother, saw it, and, not knowing the 
turn the aspiration might take, became at once Jewish in 
her fear. What if it lured him away from the patriarchal 
faith? In her view, that consequence was more dreadful 
than any or all others. She could discover but one way to 
avert it, and she set about the task, her native power rein- 
forced by love to such degree that her speech took a mas- 
culine strength and at times a poet's fervor. 

"There never has been a people," she began, "who did 
not think themselves at least equal to any other; never a 
great nation, my son, that did not believe itself the very su- 
perior. When the Roman looks down upon Israel and 
laughs, he merely repeats the folly of the Egyptian, the 
Assyrian, and the Macedonian ; and as the laugh is against 
God, the result will be the same." 

Her voice became firmer. 

" There is no law by which to determine the superiority 
of nations ; hence the vanity of the claim, and the idleness 
of disputes about it. A people risen, run their race, and 
die either of themselves or at the hands of another, who, 
succeeding to their power, take possession of their place, 



104 BEN-HUB: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

and upon their monuments write new names ; such is his- 
tory. If I were called upon to symbolize God and man in 
tho simplest form, I would draw a straight line and a circle ; 
and of the line I would say, * This is God, for he alone moves 
forever straightforward,' and of the circle, 'This is man — 
such is his progress/ I do not mean that there is no dif- 
ference between the careers of nations; no two are alike. 
The difference, however, is not, as some say, in the extent of 
the circle they describe or the space of earth they cover, 
but in the sphere of their movement, the highest being 
nearest God. 

" To stop here, my son, would be to leave the subject where 
we began. Let us go on. There are signs by which to 
measure the height of the circle each nation runs while in 
its course. By them let us compare the Hebrew and the 
Roman. 

"The simplest of all the signs is the daily life of the 
people. Of this I will only say, Israel has at times forgotten 
God, while the Roman never knew him ; consequently com- 
parison is not possible. 

" Your friend — or your former friend — charged, if I un- 
derstood you rightly, that we have had no poets, artists, or 
warriors; by which he meant, I suppose, to deny that we 
have had great men, the next most certain of the signs. 
A just consideration of this charge requires a definition at 
the commencement. A great man, O my boy, is one whose 
life proves him to have been recognized, if not called, by • 
G^d. A Persian was used to punish our recreant fathers, 
and he carried them into captivity; another Persian was 
selected to restore their children to the Holy Land ; greater 
than either of them, however, was the Macedonian through 
whom the desolation of Judea and the Temple was avenged. 
The special distinction of the men was that they were 
chosen by the Lord, each for a divine purpose; and that 
they were Gentiles does not lessen their glory. Do not 
lose sight of this definition while I proceed. 

** There is an idea that war is the most noble occupation 
of men, and that the most exalted greatness is the growth 
of battle-fields. Because the world has adopted the idea, 
be not you deceived. That we must worship something is 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 105 

a law which will continue as long as there is anything we 
cannot understand. The prayer of the barbarian is a wail 
of fear addressed to Strength, the only divine quality he can 
clearly conceive; hence his faith in heroes. What is Jove 
but a Roman hero ? The Greeks have their great glory be- 
cause they were the first to set Mind above Strength. In 
Athens the orator and philosopher were more revered than 
the warrior. The charioteer and the swiftest runner are 
still idols of the arena ; yet the immortelles are reserved for 
the sweetest singer. The birthplace of one poet was con- 
tested by seven cities. But was the Hellene the first to 
deny the old barbaric faith ? No. My son, that glory is 
ours; against brutalism our fathers erected God; in our 
worship, the wail of fear gave place to the Hosanna and the 
Psalm. So the Hebrew and the Greek would have carried 
all humanity forward and. upward. But, alas ! the govern- 
ment of the world presumes war as an eternal condition ; 
wherefore, over Mind and above God, the Roman has en- 
throned his Caesar, the absorbent of all attainable power, 
the prohibition of any other greatness. 

" The sway of the Greek was a flowering time for genius. 
In return for the liberty it then enjoyed, what a company of 
thinkers the Mind led forth ? There was a glory for every 
excellence, and a perfection so absolute that in everything 
but war even the Roman has stooped to imitation. A Greek 
is now the model of the orators in the Forum ; listen, and in 
every Roman song you will hear the rhythm of the Greek ; 
if a Roman opens his mouth speaking wisely of moralities, 
or abstractions, or of the mysteries of nature, he is either a 
plagiarist or the disciple of some school which had a Greek 
for its founder. In nothing but war, I say again, has Rome 
a claim to originality. Her games and spectacles are Greek 
inventions, dashed with blood to gratify the ferocity of her 
rabble ; her religion, if such it may be called, is made up 
of contributions from the faiths of all other peoples ; her 
most venerated gods are from Olympus— even her Mars, 
and, for that matter, the Jove she much magnifies. So it 
happens, O my son, that of the whole world our Israel alone 
can dispute the superiority of the Greek, and with him con- 
test the palm of original genius. 



106 BEN-EnJR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

" To the excellences of other peoples the egotism of a 
Roman is a blindfold, impenetrable as his breastplate. Oh, 
the ruthless robbers! Under their trampling the earth 
trembles like a floor beaten with flails. Along with the rest 
we are fallen — alas that I should say it to you, my son ! 
They have our highest places, and the holiest, and the end 
no man can tell ; but this I know — they may reduce Judea 
as an almond broken with hammers, and devour Jerusalem, 
which is the oil and sweetness thereof ; yet the glory of the 
men of Israel will remain a light in the heavens overhead 
out of reach : for their history is the history of God, who 
wrote with their hands, spake with their tongues, and was 
himself in all the good they did, even the least ; who dwelt 
with them, a Lawgiver on Sinai, a Guide in the wilderness, 
in war a Captain, in government a King; who once and 
again pushed back the curtains of the pavilion which is his 
resting-place, intolerably bright, and, as a man speaking to 
men, showed them the right, and the way to happiness, and 
how they should live, and made them promises binding the 
strength of his Almightiness with covenants sworn to ever- 
lastingly. O my son, could it be that they with whom 
Jehovah thus dwelt, an awful familiar, derived nothing from 
him ? — that in their lives and deeds the common human 
qualities should not in some degree have been mixed and 
colored with the divine ? that their genius should not have 
in it, even after the lapse of ages, some little of heaven ?" 

For a time the rustling of the fan was all the sound heard 
in the chamber. 

" In the sense which limits art to sculpture and painting, 
it is true," she next said, " Israel has had no artists." 

The admission was made regretfully, for it must be re- 
membered she was a Sadducee, whose faith, unlike that of 
the Pharisees, permitted a love of the beautiful in every 
form, and without reference to its origin. 

"Still he who would do justice," she proceeded, "will 
not forget that the cunning of our hands was bound by the 
prohibition, * Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven im- 
age, or any likeness of anything ;' which the Sopherim wick- 
edly extended beyond its purpose and time. Nor should 
it be forgotten that long before Daedalus appeared in Attica, 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 107 

and with his wooden statues so transformed sculpture as to 
make possible the schools of Corinth and ^gina, and their 
ultimate triumphs the Poecile and Capitolium — long before 
the age of Daedalus, I say, two Israelites, Bezaleel and Aho- 
liab, the master-builders of the first tabernacle, said to have 
been skilled * in all manner of workmanship,' wrought the 
cherubim of the mercy-seat above the ark. Of gold beat- 
en, not chiselled, were they ; and they were statues in form 
both human and divine. * And they shall stretch forth 
their wings on high, . . . and their faces shall look one to 
another.' Who will say they were not beautiful? or that 
they were not the first statues ?" 

" Oh, I see now why the Greek outstripped us," said Judah, 
intensely interested. " And the ark ; accursed be the Bab- 
ylonians who destroyed it I" 

" Nay, Judah, be of faith. It was not destroyed, only 
lost, hidden away too safely in some cavern of the moun- 
tains. One day — Hillel and Shammai both say so — one 
day, in the Lord's good time, it will be found and brought 
forth, and Israel dance before it, singing as of old. And 
they who look upon the faces of the cherubim then, though 
they have seen the face of the ivory Minerva, will be ready 
to kiss the hand of the Jew from love of his genius, asleep 
through all the thousands of years." 

The mother, in her eagerness, had risen into something 
like the rapidity and vehemence of a speech-maker; but 
now, to recover herself, or to pick up the thread of her 
thought, she rested awhile. 

" You are so good, my mother," he said, in a grateful 
way. "And. I will never be done saying so. Shammai 
could not have talked better, nor Hillel. I am a true son 
of Israel again." 

"Flatterer!" she said. "You do not know that I am 
but repeating what I heard Hillel say in an argument he 
had one day in my presence with a sophist from Rome." 

" Well, the hearty words are yours." 

Directly all her earnestness returned. 

" Where was I ? Oh yes, I was claiming for our Hebrew 
fathers the first statues. The trick of the sculptor, Judah, 
is not all there is of art, any more than art is all there is of 



108 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

greatness. I always think of great men marching down the 
centuries in groups and goodly companies, separable accord- 
ing to nationalities; here the Indian, there the Egyptian, 
yonder the Assyrian; above them the music of trumpets 
and the beauty of banners ; and on their right hand and left, 
as reverent spectators, the generations from the beginning 
numberless. As they go, I think of the Greek, saying, * Lo I 
the Hellene leads the way.' Then the Roman replies, * Si- 
lence ! what was your place is ours now ; we have left you 
behind as dust trodden on.' And all the time, from the far 
front back over the line of march, as well as forward into 
the farthest future, streams a light of which the wranglers 
know nothing, except that it is forever leading them on — 
the Light of Revelation! Who are they that carry it? 
Ah, the old Judean blood ! How it leaps at the thought ! 
By the light we know them. Thrice blessed, O our fathers, 
servants of God, keepers of the covenants ! Ye are the 
leaders of men, the living and the dead. The front is 
thine ; and though every Roman were a Caesar, ye shall not 
lose it !" 

Judah was deeply stirred. 

" Do not stop, I pray you," he cried. " You give me to 
hear the sound of timbrels. I wait for Miriam and the 
women who went after her dancing and singing." 

She caught his feeling, and, with ready wit, wove it into 
her speech. 

" Very well, my son. If you can hear the timbrel of the 
prophetess, you can do what I was about to ask ; you can 
use your fancy, and stand with me, as if by the wayside, 
while the chosen of Israel pass us at the head of the pro- 
cession. Now they come — the patriarchs first; next the 
fathers of the tribes. I almost hear the bells of their camels 
and the lowing of their herds. Who is he that walks alone 
between the companies? An old man, yet his eye is not 
dim, nor his natural force abated. He knew the Lord face 
to face ! Warrior, poet, orator, lawgiver, prophet, his great- 
ness is as the sun at morning, its flood of splendor quench- 
ing all other lights, even that of the first and noblest of the 
Caesars. After him the judges. And then the kings — the 
son of Jesse, a hero in war, and a singer of songs eternal as 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 109 

that of the sea; and his son, who, passing all other kings 
in riches and wisdom, and while making the Desert habi- 
table, and in its waste places planting cities, forgot not Je- 
rusalem which the Lord had chosen for his seat on earth. 
Bend lower, my son ! These that come next are the first 
of their kind, and the last. Their faces are raised, as if 
they heard a voice in the sky and were listening. Their 
lives were full of sorrows. Their garments smell of tombs 
and caverns. Hearken to a woman among them — * Sing ye 
to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously !' Nay, put 
your forehead in the dust before them ! They were tongues 
of God, his servants, who looked through heaven, and, see- 
ing all the future, wrote what they saw, and left the writing 
to be proven by time. Kings turned pale as they approach- 
ed them, and nations trembled at the sound of their voices. 
The elements waited upon them. In their hands they car- 
ried every bounty and every plague. See the Tishbite and 
his servant Elisha ! See the sad son of Hilkiah, and him, 
the seer of visions, by the river of Chebar! And of the 
three children of Judah who refused the image of the Bab- 
ylonian, lo I that one who, in the feast to the thousand 
lords, so confounded the astrologers. And yonder — O my 
son, kiss the dust again I — yonder the gentle son of Amoz, 
from whom the world has its promise of the Messiah to 
come !" 

In this passage the fan had been kept in rapid play ; it 
stopped now, and her voice sank low. 

" You are tired," she said. 

" No," he replied, " I was listening to a new song of 
Israel." 

The mother was still intent upon her purpose, and passed 
the pleasant speech. 

" In such light as I could, my Judah, I have set our great 
men before you — patriarchs, legislators, warriors, singers, 
prophets. Turn we to the best of Rome. Against Moses 
place Cffisar, and Tarquin against David; Sylla against 
either of the Maccabees; the best of the consuls against 
the judges ; Augustus against Solomon, and you are done : 
comparison ends there. But think then of the prophets — 
greatest of the great." 



110 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

She laughed scornfully. 

"Pardon me. I was thinking of the soothsayer who 
warned Caius Julius against the ides of March, and fancied 
him looking for the omens of evil which his master despised 
in the entrails of a chicken. From that picture turn to 
Elijah sitting on the hill-top on the way to Samaria, amid 
the smoking bodies of the captains and their fifties, warning 
the son of Ahab of the wrath of our God, Finally, O my 
Judah — if such speech be reverent — how shall we judge Je- 
hovah and Jupiter unless it be by what their servants have 
done in their names ? And as for what you shall do — " 

She spoke the latter words slowly, and with a tremulous 
utterance. 

" As for what you shall do, my boy — serve the Lord, the 
Lord God of Israel, not Rome. For a child of Abraham 
there is no glory except in the Lord's ways, and in them 
there is much glory." 

" I may be a soldier then ?" Judah asked. 

" Why not ? Did not Moses call God a man of war ?" 

There was then a long silence in the summer chamber. 

"You have my permission," she said, finally; "if only 
vou serve the Lord instead of Caesar." 

He was content with the condition, and by-and-by fell 
asleep. She arose then, and put the cushion under his head, 
and, throwing a shawl over him and kissing Jiim tenderly, 
went away. 



Chapter VL 

The good man, like the bad, must die ; but, remembering 
the lesson of our faith, we say of him and the event, " No 
matter, he will open his eyes in heaven." Nearest this in 
life is the waking from healthful sleep to a quick conscious- 
ness of happy sights and sounds. 

When Judah awoke, the sun was up over the mountains ; 
the pigeons were abroad in flocks, filling the air with the 
gleams of their white wings ; and off southeast he beheld 
the Temple, an apparition of gold in the blue of the sky. 
These, however, were familiar objects, and they received but 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. HI 

a glance ; upon the edge of the divan, close by him, a girl 
scarcely fifteen sat singing to the accompaniment of a nebel, 
which she rested upon her knee, and touched gracefully. 
To her he turned listening ; and this was what she sang : 

THE SONG. 

" Wake not, but hear me, love ! 
Adrift, adrift on slumber's sea. 
Thy spirit cull to list to me. 
Wake not, but hear me, love ! 

A gift from Sleep, the restful king. 
All happy, happy dreams I bring. 

** Wake not, but hear me, love ! 

Of all the world of dreams 'tis thine 
This once to choose the most divine. 
So choose, and sleep, my love ! 
But ne'er again in choice be free, 
Unless, unless — you dream of me.'* 

She put the instrument down, and, resting her hands in 
her lap, waited for him to speak. And as it has become 
necessary to tell somewhat of her, we will avail ourselves of 
the chance, and add such particulars of the family into 
whoso privacy we are brought as the reader may wish to 
know. 

The favors of Herod had left surviving him many persons 
of vast estate. Where this fortune was joined to undoubted 
lineal descent from some famous son of one of the tribes, 
especially Judah, the happy individual was accounted a 
Prince of Jerusalem — a distinction which sufficed to bring 
him the homage of his less favored countrymen, and the re- 
spect, if nothing more, of the Gentiles with whom business 
and social circumstance brought him into dealing. Of this 
class none had won in private or public life a higher regard 
than the father of the lad whom we have been following. 
With a remembrance of his nationality which never failed 
him, he had yet been true to the king, and served him faith- 
fully at home and abroad. Some offices had taken him to 
Rome, where his conduct attracted the notice of Augustus, 
who strove without reserve to engage his friendship. In his 
house, accordingly, were many presents, such as had gratified 
the vanity of kings — ^purple togas, ivory chairs, golden pa- 



112 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

terce — chiefly valuable on account of the imperial hand 
which had honorably conferred them. Such a man could 
not fail to be rich ; yet his wealth was not altogether the 
largess of royal patrons. He had welcomed the law that 
bound him to some pursuit ; and, instead of one, he entered 
into many. Of the herdsmen watching flocks on the plains 
and hill-sides, far as old Lebanon, numbers reported to him 
as their employer ; in the cities by the sea, and in those in- 
land, he founded houses of traffic ; his ships brought him 
silver from Spain, whose mines were then the richest known; 
while his caravans came twice a year from tfie East, laden 
with silks and spices. In faith he was a Hebrew, observant 
of the law and every essential rite ; his place in the syn- 
agogue and Temple knew him well; he was thoroughly 
learned in the Scriptures ; he delighted in the society of the 
college-masters, and carried his reverence for Hillel almost 
to the point of worship. Yet he was in no sense a Sepa- 
ratist ; his hospitality took in strangers from every land ; the 
carping Pharisees even accused him of having more than 
once entertained Samaritans at his table. Had he been a 
Gentile, and lived, the world might have heard of him as the 
rival of Herodes Atticus : as it was, he perished at sea some 
ten years before this second period of our story, in the 
prime of life, and lamented everywhere in Judea. We are 
already acquainted with two members of his family — his 
widow and son ; the only other was a daughter — she whom 
we have seen singing to her brother. 

Tirzah was her name, and as the two looked at each 
other, their resemblance was plain. Her features had the 
regularity of his, and were of the same Jewish type ; they 
had also the charm of childish innocency of expression. 
Home-life and its trustful love permitted the negligent at- 
tire in which she appeared. A chemise buttoned upon the 
right shoulder, and passing loosely over the breast and back 
and under the left arm, but half concealed her person above 
the waist, while it left the arms entirely nude. A girdle 
caught the folds of the garment, marking the commencement 
of the skirt. The coiffure was very simple and becoming 
— a silken cap, Tyrian-dyed ; and over that a striped scarf 
of the same material, beautifully embroidered, and wound 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 113 

about in tbin folds so as to sbow tbe sbape of tbe head 
without enlarging it ; tbe whole finished by a tassel drop- 
ping from the crown point of the cap. She had rings, ear 
and finger; anklets and bracelets, all of gold; and around her 
neck there was a collar of gold, curiously garnished with a 
network of delicate chains, to which were pendants of pearl. 
The edges of her eyelids were painted, and the tips of her 
fingers stained. Her hair fell in two long plaits down her 
back. A curled lock rested upon each cheek in front of 
the ear. Altogether it would have been impossible to deny 
her grace, refinement, and beauty. 

" Very pretty, my Tirzah, very pretty !" he said, with 
animation. 

" The song ?" she asked. 

"Yes — and the singer, too. It has the conceit of a 
Greek. Where did you get it ?" 

" You remember the Greek who sang in the theatre last 
month ? They said he used to be a singer at the court for 
Herod and his sister Salome. He came out just after an 
exhibition of wrestlers, when the house was full of noise. 
At his first note everything became so quiet that I heard 
every word. I got the song from him." 

" But he sang in Greek." 

" And I in Hebrew." 

" Ah, yes. I am proud of my little sister. Have you 
another as good ?" 

" Very many. But let them go now. Amrah sent me 
to tell you she will bring you your breakfast, and that you 
need not come down. She should be here by this time.^ 
She thinks you sick — that a dreadful accident happened 
you yesterday. What was it ? Tell me, and I will help 
Amrah doctor you. She knows the cures of the Egyptians, 
who were always a stupid set; but I have a great many 
recipes of the Arabs who — " 

"Are even more stupid than the Egyptians," he said, 
shaking his head. 

" Do you think so ? Very well, then," she replied, al- 
most without .pause, and putting her hands to her left ear. 
" We will have nothing to do with any of them. I have 

here what is much surer and better — the amulet which was 
8 



114 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

given to some of onr people — I cannot tell when, it was so 
far back — ^by a Persian magician. See, the inscription is 
almost worn out." 

She offered him the ear-ring, which he took, looked at, 
and handed back, langhing. 

" If I were dying, Tirzah, I could not use the charm. It 
is a relic of idolatry, forbidden every believing son and 
daughter of Abraham. Take it, but do not wear it any 
more." 

" Forbidden ! Not so," she said. " Our father's mother 
wore it I do not know how many Sabbaths in her life. It 
has cured I do not know how many people — more than 
three anyhow. It is approved — look, here is the mark of 
the rabbis." 

" I have no faith in amulets." 

She raised her eyes to his in astonishment. 

" What would Amrah say ?" 

" Amrah's father and mother tended sakiyeh for a garden 
on the NUe." 

" But GamaUel !" 

" He says they are godless inventions of unbelievers and 
Shechemites." 

Tirzah looked at the ring doubtfully. 

" What shall I do with it ?" 

" Wear it, my little sister. It becomes you — it helps 
make you beautiful, though I think you that without 
help." 

Satisfied, she returned the amulet to her ear just as Am- 
rah entered the summer chamber, bearing a platter, with 
wash-bowl, water, and napkins. 

Not being a Pharisee, the ablution was short and simple 
with Judah. The servant then went out, leaving Tirzah to 
dress his hair. When a lock was disposed to her satisfac- 
tion, she would unloose the small metallic mirror which, as 
was the fashion among her fair country-women, she wore at 
her girdle, and gave it to him, that he might see the triumph, 
and how handsome it made him. Meanwhile they kept up 
their conversation. 

" What do you think, Tirzah ? — I am going away." 

She dropped her hands with amazement 



BEN-HUB: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 115 

"Going away! When? Where? For what?" 

He laughed. 

" Three questions, all in a breath ! WTiat a body you 
are !" Next instant he became serious. " You know the 
law requires me to follow some occupation. Our good 
father set me an example. Even you would despise me if 
I spent in idleness the results of his industry and knowl- 
edge. I am going to Rome." 

** Oh, I will go with you." 

"You must stay with mother. If both of us leave her, 
she will die." 

The brightness faded from her face. 

" Ah, yes, yes ! But — must you go ? Here in Jerusalem 
you can learn all that is needed to be a merchant — if that 
is what you are thinking of." 

" But that is not what I am thinking of. The law does 
not require the son to be what the father was." 

" What else can you be ?" 

" A soldier," he replied, with a certain pride of voice. 

Tears came into her eyes. 

" You will be killed." 

" If God's will, be it so. But, Tirzah, the soldiers are not 
all killed." 

She threw her arms around his neck, as if to hold him 
back. 

" We are so happy ! Stay at home, my brother." 

" Home cannot always be what it is. You yourself will 
be going away before long." 

" Never !" 

He smiled at her earnestness. 

" A prince of Judah, or some other of one of the tribes, 
will come soon and claim my Tirzah, and ride away with 
her, to be the light of another house. What will then be- 
come of me ?" 

She answered with sobs. 

" War is a trade," he continued, more soberly. " To learn 
it thoroughly, one must go to school, and there is no school 
like a Roman camp." 

" You would not fight for Rome?" she asked, holding her 
breath. 



116 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

" And you — even you hate her. The whole world hates 
her. In that, O Tirzah, find the reason of the answer I give 
you — Yes, I will fight for her, if, in return, she will teach 
me how one day to fight against her." 

" When will you go ?" 

Amrah's steps were then heard returning. 

" Hist !" he said. " Do not let her know of what I am 
thinking." 

The faithful slave came in with breakfast, and placed the 
waiter holding it upon a stool before them; then, with 
white napkins upon her arm, she remained to serve them. 
They dipped their fingers in a bowl of water, and were rins- 
ing them, when a noise arrested their attention. They lis- 
tened, and distinguished martial music in the street on the 
north side of the house. 

" Soldiers from the Praetorium ! I must see them," he 
cried, springing from the divan, and running out. 

In a moment more he was leaning over the parapet of 
tiles which guarded the roof at the extreme northeast 
comer, so absorbed that he did not notice Tirzah by his 
side, resting one hand upon his shoulder. 

Their position — the roof being the highest one in the lo- 
cality — commanded the house-tops eastward as far as the 
huge irregular Tower of Antonia, which has been already 
mentioned as a citadel for the garrison and military head- 
quarters for the governor. The street, not more than ten 
feet wide, was spanned here and there by bridges, open and 
covered, which, like the roofs along the way, were beginning 
to be occupied by men, women, and children, called out by 
the music. The word is used, though it is hardly fitting; 
what the people heard when they came forth was rather an 
uproar of trumpets and the shriller litui so delightful to the 
soldiers. 

The array after a while came into view of the two upon the 
house of the Hurs. First, a vanguard of the light-armed — 
mostly slingers and bowmen — marching with wide intervals 
between their ranks and files ; next a body of heavy-armed 
infantry, bearing large shields, and hastoe longce^ or spears 
identical with those used in the duels before Ilium ; then 
the musicians; and then an officer riding alone, but fol- 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 117 

lowed closely by a guard of cavalry ; after them again, a 
column of infantry also heavy -armed, which, moving in close 
order, crowded the street from wall to wall, and appeared to 
be without end. 

The brawny limbs of the men ; the cadenced motion 
from right to left of the shields ; the sparkle of scales, 
buckles, and breastplates and helms, all perfectly burnished ; 
the plumes nodding above the tall crests ; the sway of en- 
signs and iron-shod spears ; the bold, confident step, exactly 
timed and measured ; the demeanor, so grave, yet so watch- 
ful; the machine- like unity of the whole moving mass — 
made an impression upon Judah, but as something felt 
rather than seen. Two objects fixed his attention — the 
eagle of the legion first — a gilded effigy perched on a tall 
shaft, with wings outspread until they met above its head. 
He knew that, when brought from its chamber in the Tower, 
it had been received with divine honors. 

The officer riding alone in the midst of the column was 
the other attraction. His head was bare ; otherwise he was 
in full armor. At his left hip he wore a short sword; in 
his hand, however, he carried a truncheon, which looked 
like a roll of white paper. He sat upon a purple cloth in- 
stead of a saddle, and that, and a bridle with a forestall of 
gold and reins of yellow silk broadly fringed at the lower 
edge, completed the housings of the horse. 

While the man was yet in the distance, Judah observed 
that his presence was sufficient to throw the people looking 
at him into angry excitement. They would lean over the 
parapets or stand boldly out, and shake their fists at him ; 
they followed him with loud cries, and spit at him as he 
passed under the bridges ; the women even flung their san- 
dals, sometimes with such good effect as to hit him. When 
he was nearer, the yells became distinguishable — " Robber, 
tyrant, dog of a Roman I Away with Ishmael ! Give us 
back our Hannas !^' 

When quite near, Judah could see that, as was but natu. 
ral, the man did not share the indifference so superbly 
shown by the soldiers ; his face was dark and sullen, and 
the glances he occasionally cast at his persecutors were full 
of menace ; the very timid shrank from them. 



118 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

Now the lad had heard of the cnstora, borrowed from a 
habit of the first Caesar, by which chief commanders, to in- 
dicate their rank, appeared in public with only a laurel vine 
upon their heads. By that sign he knew this officer — 
Valerius Gratus, the New Procurator of Judea ! 

To say truth now, the Roman under the unprovoked 
storm had the young Jew's sympathy; so that when he 
reached the comer of the house, the latter leaned yet far- 
ther over the parapet to see him go by, and in the act rested 
a hand upon a tile which had been a long time cracked and 
allowed to go unnoticed. The pressure was strong enough 
to displace the outer piece, which started to fall. A thnll 
of horror shot through the youth. He reached out to catch 
the missile. In appearance the motion was exactly that of 
one pitching something from him. The effort failed — ^nay, 
it served to push the descending fragment farther out over 
the wall. He shouted with all his might. The soldiers of 
the guard looked up ; so did the great man, and that mo- 
ment the missile struck him, and he fell from his seat as 
dead. 

The cohort halted ; the guards leaped from their horses, 
and hastened to cover the chief with their shields. On the 
other hand, the people who witnessed the affair, never doubt- 
ing that the blow had been purposely dealt, cheered the lad 
as he yet stooped in full view over the parapet, transfixed 
by what he beheld, and by anticipation of the consequences 
flashed all too plainly upon him. 

A mischievous spirit flew with incredible speed from roof 
to roof along the line of march, seizing the people, and 
urging them all alike. They laid hands upon the parapets 
and tore up the tiling and the sunburnt mud of which the 
house-tops were for the most part made, and with blind fury 
began to fling them upon the legionaries halted below. A 
battle then ensued. Discipline, of course, prevailed. The 
struggle, the slaughter, the skill of one side, the desperation 
of the other, are alike unnecessary to our story. Let us 
look rather to the wretched author of it all. 

He arose from the parapet, his face very pale. 

" O Tirzah, Tirzah ! What will become of us ?" 

She had not seen the occurrence below, but was listening 



BENHUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 119 

to the shouting and watching the mad activity of the people 
in view on the houses. Something terrible was going on, 
she knew ; but what it was, or the cause, or that she or any 
of those dear to her were in danger, she did not know. 

"What has happened? What does it all mean?" she 
asked, in sudden alarm. 

" I have killed the Roman governor. The tile fell upon 
him." 

An unseen hand appeared to sprinkle her face with the 
dust of ashes — it grew white so instantly. She put her arm 
around him, and looked wistfully, but without a word, into 
his eyes. His fears had passed to her, and the sight of 
them gave him strength. 

" I did not do it purposely, Tirzah — it was an accident," 
he said, more calmly. 

" What will they do ?" she asked. 

He looked off over the tumult momentarily deepening in 
the street and on the roofs, and thought of the sullen coun- 
tenance of Gratus. If he were not dead, where would his 
vengeance stop? And if he were dead, to what height of 
fury would not the violence of the people lash the legion- 
aries? To evade an answer, he peered over the parapet 
again, just as the guard were assisting the Roman to re- 
mount his horse. 

" He lives, he lives, Tirzah ! Blessed be the Lord God of 
our fathers !" 

With that outcry, and a brightened countenance, he drew 
back and replied to her question. 

" Be not afraid, Tirzah. I will explain how it happened, 
and they will remember our father and his services, and not 
hurt us." 

He was leading her to the summer-house, when the roof 
jarred under their feet, and a crash of strong timbers being 
burst away, followed by a cry of surprise and agony, arose 
apparently from the court-yard below. He stopped and lis- 
tened. The cry was repeated ; then came a rush of many 
feet, and voices lifted in rage blent with voices in prayer ; 
and then the screams of women in mortal terror. The 
soldiers had beaten in the north gate, and were in possession 
of the house. The terrible sense of being hunted smote 



120 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

him. His first impulse was to fly ; but where ? Nothing 
but wings would serve him. Tirzah, her eyes wild with 
fear, caught his arm. 

" O Judah, what does it mean ?" 

The servants were being butchered — and his mother! 
Was not one of the voices he heard hers? With all the 
will left him, he said, " Stay here, and wait for me, Tirzah. 
I will go down and see what is the matter, and come back 
to you." 

His voice was not steady as he wished. She clung closer 
to him. 

Clearer, shriller, no longer a fancy, his mother's cry arose. 
He hesitated no longer. 

" Come, then, let us go." 

The terrace or gallery at the foot of the steps was 
crowded with soldiers. Other soldiers with drawn swords 
ran in and out of the chambers. At one place a number of 
women on their knees clung to each other or prayed for 
mercy. Apart from them, one with torn garments, and long 
hair streaming over her face, struggled to tear loose from a 
man all whose strength was tasked to keep his hold. Her 
cries were shrillest of all ; cutting through the clamor, they 
had risen distinguishably to the roof. To her Judah sprang 
— his steps were long and swift, almost a winged flight — 
" Mother, mother !" he shouted. She stretched her hands 
towards him ; but when almost touching them he was seized 
and forced aside. Then he heard some one say, speaking 
loudly, 

" That is he !" 

Judah looked, and saw — Messala. 

" What, the assassin — that ?" said a tall man, in legionary 
armor of beautiful finish. " Why, he is but a boy." 

"Gods!" replied Messala, not forgetting his drawl. "A 
new philosophy ! What would Seneca say to the proposi- 
tion that a man must be old before he can hate enough to 
kill ? You have him ; and that is his mother ; yonder his 
sister. You have the whole family." 

For love of them, Judah forgot his quarrel. 

" Help them, O my Messala ! Remember our childhood, 
and help them. I — Judah — pray you." 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 121 

Messala affected not to bear. 

" I cannot be of further use to you," be said to the of- 
ficer. " There is richer entertainment in the street. Down 
Eros, up Mars !" 

With the last words he disappeared. Judah understood 
him, and, in the bitterness of his soul, prayed to Heaven. 

" In the hour of thy vengeance, O Lord," be said, " bo 
mine the hand to put it upon him !" 

By great exertion, be drew nearer the officer. 

" O sir, the woman you bear is my mother. Spare her, 
spare my sister yonder. God is just, he will give you mercy 
for mercy." 

The man appeared to be moved. 

" To the Tower with the women !" he shouted, " but do 
them no barm. I will demand them of you." Then to 
those holding Judah, he said, "Get cords, and bind his 
bands, and take him to the street His punishment is re- 
served." 

The mother was carried away. The little Tirzah, in her 
home attire, stupefied with fear, went passively with her 
keepers. Judah gave each of them a last look, and covered 
bis face with his hands, as if to possess himself of the scene 
fadelessly. He may have shed tears, though no one saw them. 

There took place in him then what may be justly called 
the wonder of life. The thoughtful reader of these pages 
has ere this discerned enough to know that the young Jew 
in disposition was gentle even to womanliness — a result 
that seldom fails the habit of loving and being loved. The 
circumstances through which he had come had made no 
call upon the harsher elements of his nature, if such be had. 
At times be bad felt the stir and impulses of ambition, but 
they had been like the formless dreams of a child walking 
by the sea and gazing at the coming and going of stately 
ships. But now, if we can imagine an idol, sensible of the 
worship it was accustomed to, dashed suddenly from its 
altar, and lying amidst the wreck of its little world of love, 
an idea may be had of what bad befallen the young Ben- 
Hur, and of its effect upon his being. Yet there was no 
sign, nothing to indicate that he had undergone a change, 
except that when be raised bis bead, and held bis arms out 



122 .BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

to be bound, the bend of the Cupid's bow had vanished from 
his lips. In that instant he had put oQ. childhood and be- 
come a man. 

A trumpet sounded in the court-yard. With the cessa- 
tion of the call, the gallery was cleared of the soldiery ; 
many of whom, as they dared not appear in the ranks with 
visible plunder in their hands, flung what they had upon the 
floor, until it was strewn with articles of richest virtii. 
When Judah descended, the formation was complete, and 
the oflficer waiting to see his last order executed. 

The mother, daughter, and entire household were led out 
of the north gate, the ruins of which choked the passage- 
way. The cries of the domestics, some of whom had been 
born in the house, were most pitiable. When, finally, the 
horses and all the dumb tenantry of the place were driven 
past him, Judah began to comprehend the scope of the proc- 
urator's vengeance. The very structure was devoted. Far 
as the order was possible of execution, nothing living was 
to be left within its walls. If in Judea there were others 
desperate enough to think of assassinating a Roman gov- 
ernor, the story of what befell the princely family of Hur 
would be a warning to them, while the ruin of the habita- 
tion would keep the story alive. 

The oflficer waited outside while a detail of men tempo- 
rarily restored the gate. 

In the street the fighting had almost ceased. Upon the 
houses here and there clouds of dust told where the struggle 
was yet prolonged. The cohort was, for the most part, 
standing at rest, its splendor, like its ranks, in nowise di- 
minished. Borne past the point of care for himself, Judah 
had heart for nothing in view but the prisoners, among 
whom he looked in vain for his mother and Tirzah. 

Suddenly, from the earth where she had been lying, a 
woman arose and started swiftly back to the gate. Some 
of the guards reached out to seize her, and a great shout 
followed their failure. She ran to Judah, and, dropping 
down, clasped his knees, the coarse black hair powdered 
with dust veiling her eyes. 

"O Amrah, good Amrah," he said to her, "God help 
you ; I cannot." 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 123 

She could not speak. 

He bent down, and whispered, " Live, Ararah, for Tirzah 
and my mother. They will come back, and — " 

A soldier drew her away ; whereupon she sprang up and 
rushed through the gateway and passage into the vacant 
court-yard. 

" Let her go," the oflScer shouted. " We will seal the 
house, and she will starve." 

The men resumed their work, and, when it was finished 
there, passed round to the west side. That gate was also 
secured, after which the palace of the Hurs was lost to use. 

The cohort at length marched back to the Tower, where 
the procurator stayed to recover from his hurts and dispose 
of his prisoners. On the tenth day following, he visited the 
Market-place. 



Chapter VIL 

Next day a detachment of legionaries went to the deso- 
lated palace, and, closing the gates permanently, plastered 
the corners with wax, and at the sides nailed a notice in 
Latin : 

"This is the Property of 

THE EMPEROR." 

In the haughty Roman idea, the sententious announce- 
ment was thought sufficient for the purpose — and it was. 

The day after that again, about noon, a decurion with his 
command of ten horsemen approached Nazareth from the 
south — that is, from the direction of Jerusalem. The place 
was then a straggling village, perched on a hill-side, and so 
insignificant that its one street was little more than a path 
well beaten by the coming and going of flocks and herds. 
The great plain of Esdraelon crept close to it on the south, 
and from the height on the west a view could be had of the 
shores of the Mediterranean, the region beyond the Jordan, 
and Hermon. The valley below, and the country on every side, 
were given to gardens, vineyards, orchards, and pasturage. 
Groves of palm-trees Orientalized the landscape. The houses, 



124 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

in irregular assemblage, were of the humbler class — square, 
one-story, flat-roofed, and covered with bright-green vines. 
The drought that had burned the hills of Judea to a crisp, 
brown and lifeless, stopped at the boundary-line of Galilee. 

A trumpet, sounded when the cavalcade drew near the 
village, had a magical effect upon the inhabitants. The 
gates and front doors cast forth groups eager to be the first 
to catch the meaning of a visitation so unusual. 

Nazareth, it must be remembered, was not only aside from 
any great highway, but within the sway of Judas of Gama- 
la ; wherefore it should not be hard to imagine the feelings 
with which the legionaries were received. But when they 
were up and traversing the street, the duty that occupied 
them became apparent, and then fear and hatred were lost 
in curiosity, under the impulse of which the people, know- 
ing there must be a halt at the well in the northeastern 
part of the town, quit their gates and doors, and closed in 
after the procession. 

A prisoner whom the horsemen were guarding was the 
object of curiosity. He was afoot, bareheaded, half nated, 
his hands bound behind him. A thong fixed to his wrists 
was looped over the neck of a horse. The dust went with 
the party when in movement, wrapping him in yellow fog, 
sometimes in a dense cloud. He drooped forward, footsore 
and faint. The villagers could see he was young. 

At the well the decurion halted, and, with most of the 
mpn, dismounted. The prisoner sank down in the dust of 
the road, stupefied, and asking nothing : apparently he was 
in the last stage of exhaustion. Seeing, when they came 
near, that he was but a boy, the villagers would have helped 
him had they dared. 

In the midst of their perplexity, and while the pitchers 
were passing among the soldiers, a man was descried com- 
ing down the road from Sepphoris. At sight of him a 
woman cried out, "Look! Yonder comes the carpenter. 
Now we will hear something." 

The person spoken of was quite venerable in appearance. 
Thin white locks fell below the edge of his full turban, and 
a mass of still whiter beard flowed down the front of his 
coarse gray gown. He came slowly, for, in addition to his 



BEN.HUR: A TALE OF THE CHKIST. 125 

age, he carried some tools — an axe, a saw, and a drawing- 
knife, all very rude and heavy — and had evidently travelled 
some distance without rest. 

He stopped close by to survey the assemblage. 

" O Rabbi, good Rabbi Joseph !" cried a woman, running 
to him. " Here is a prisoner ; come ask the soldiers about 
him, that we may know who he is, and what he has done, 
and what they are going to do with him." 

The rabbi's face remained stolid ; he glanced at the pris- 
oner, however, and presently went to the oflScer. 

" The peace of the Lord be with you 1" he said, with un- 
bending gravity. 

" And that of the gods with you," the decurion replied. 

" Are you from Jerusalem ?" 

" Yes." 

" Your prisoner is young." 

** In years, yes." 

" May I ask what he has done ?" 

" He is an assassin." 

The people repeated the word in astonishment, but Rabbi 
Joseph pursued his inquest. 

" Is he a son of Israel ?" 

" He is a Jew," said the Roman, dryly. 

The wavering pity of the bystanders came back. 

" I know nothing of your tribes, but can speak of his 
family," the speaker continued. " You may have heard of 
a prince of Jerusalem named Hur — Ben-Hur, they called 
him. He lived in Herod's day." 

" I have seen him," Joseph said. 

" Well, this is his son." 

Exclamations became general, and the decurion hastened 
to stop them. 

" In the streets of Jerusalem, day before yesterday, he 
nearly killed the noble Gratus by flinging a tile upon his 
head from the roof of a palace — his father's, I believe." 

There was a pause in the conversation during which the 
Nazarenes gazed at the young Ben-Hur as at a wild beast. 

" Did he kill him ?" asked the rabbi. 

" No." 

" He is under sentence." 



126 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

" Yes — the galleys for life." 

" The Lord help him 1" said Joseph, for once moved out 
of his stolidity. 

Thereupon a youth who came up with Joseph, but had 
stood behind him unobserved, laid down an axe he had been 
carrying, and, going to the great stone standing by the well, 
took from it a pitcher of water. The action was so quiet 
that before the guard could interfere, had they been disposed 
to do so, he was stooping over the prisoner, and offering 
him drink." 

The hand laid kindly upon his shoulder awoke the unfort- 
unate Judah, and, looking up, he saw a face he never forgot 
— the face of a boy about his own age, shaded by locks of 
yellowish bright chestnut hair; a face lighted by dark-blue 
eyes, at the time so soft, so appealing, so full of love and 
holy purpose, that they had all the power of command and 
will. The spirit of the Jew, hardened though it was by 
days and nights of suffering, and so imbittered by wrong 
that its dreams of revenge took in all the world, melted un- 
der the stranger's look, and became as a child's. He put 
his lips to the pitcher, and drank long and deep. Not a 
word was said to him, nor did he say a word. 

When the draught was finished,, the hand that had been 
resting upon the sufferer's shoulder was placed upon his 
bead, and stayed there in the dusty locks time enough to 
say a blessing ; the stranger then returned the pitcher to its 
place on the stone, and, taking his axe again, went back to 
Rabbi Joseph. All eyes went with him, the decurion's as 
well as those of the villagers. 

This was the end of the scene at the well. When the 
men had drunk, and the horses, the march was resumed. 
But the temper of the decurion was not as it had been ; he 
himself raised the prisoner from the dust, and helped him 
on a horse behind a soldier. The Nazarenes went to their 
houses — among them Rabbi Joseph and his apprentice. 

And so, for the first time, Judah and the son of Mary 
met and parted. 



BEN-HUE: A TALE OF THE CHBBT. 127 



BOOK THIRD. 



" Cleopatra, . . . Our size of sorrow, 
Proportioned to our cause, must be as great 
As that which makes it. — 

ErUer^ bdoWy Diomedes. 

How now ? is he dead ? 
Diomedes. His death *8 upon him, but not dead." 
Antony and Cleopatra (act iv., sc. xiii.). 



Chapter I. 

The city of Misenum gave name to the promontory which 
it crowned, a few miles southwest of Naples. An account 
of ruins is all that remains of it now ; yet in the year of our 
Lord 24 — to which it is desirable to advance the reader — 
the place was one of the most important on the western 
coast of Italy.* 

In the year mentioned, a traveller coming to the promon- 
tory to regale himself witH the view there offered, would 
have mounted a wall, and, with the city at his back, looked 
over the bay of Neapolis, as charming then as now ; and 
then, as now, he would have seen the matchless shore, the 
smoking cone, the sky and waves so softly, deeply blue, 
Ischia here and Capri yonder ; from one to the other and 
back again, through the purpled air, his gaze would have 
sported ; at last — -for the eyes do weary of the beautiful as 
the palate with sweets — at last it would have dropped upon 



♦ The Roman government, it will be remembered, had two harbors 
in which great fleets were constantly kept — Ravenna and Misenum. 



1(28 BEN-HUR: A TALE OP THE CHRIST. 

a spectacle which the modern tourist cannot see — ^half the 
reserve navy of Rome astir or at anchor below him. Thus 
regarded, Misenum was a very proper place for three mas- 
ters to meet, and at leisure parcel the worid among them. 

In the old time, moreover, there was a gateway in the 
wall at a certain point fronting the sea — an empty gateway 
forming the outlet of a street which, after the exit, stretched 
itself, in the form of a broad mole, out many stadia into the 
waves. 

The watchman on the wall above the gateway was dis- 
turbed, one cool September morning, by a party coming 
down the street in noisy conversation. He gave one look, 
then settled into his drowse again. 

There were twenty or thirty persons in the party, of 
whom the greater number were slaves with torches which 
flamed little and smoked much, leaving on the air the per- 
fume of the Indian nard. The masters walked in advance 
arm-in-arm. One of them, apparently fifty years old, slight- 
ly bald, and wearing over his scant locks a crown of laurel, 
seemed, from the attentions paid him, the central object of 
some affectionate ceremony. They all sported ample togas 
of white wool broadly bordered with purple. A glance had 
sufficed the watchman. He knew, without question, they 
were of high rank, and escorting a friend to ship after a 
night of festivity. Further explanation will be found in 
the conversation they carried on. 

" No, my Quintus," said one, speaking to him with the 
crown, " it is ill of Fortune to take thee from us so soon. 
Only yesterday thou didst return from the seas beyond the 
Pillars. Why, thou hast not even got back thy land legs." 

" By Castor ! if a man may swear a woman's oath," said 
another, somewhat worse of wine, " let us not lament. Our 
Quintus is but going to find what he lost last night. Dice 
on a rolling ship is not dice on shore — eh, Quintus ?" 

** Abuse not Fortune!" exclaimed a third. "She is not 
blind or fickle. At Antiura, where our Arrius questions her, 
she answers him with nods, and at sea she abides with him 
holding the rudder. She takes him from us, but does she 
not always give him back with a new victory ?" 

" The Greeks are taking him away," another broke in. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 129 

'* Let us abuse them, not the gods. In learning to trade, 
they forgot how to fight." 

With these words, the party passed the gateway, and 
came upon the mole, with the bay before them beautiful in 
the morning light. To the veteran sailor the plash of the 
waves was like a greeting. Ho drew a long breath, as if 
the perfume of the water were sweeter than that of the nard, 
and held his hand aloft. 

"My gifts were at Praoneste, not Antium — and seel 
Wind from the west. Thanks, O Fortune, my mother !" 
he said, earnestly. 

The friends all repeated the exclamation, and the slaves 
waved their torches. 

** She comes — yonder !" he continued, pointing to a gal- 
ley outside the mole. " What need has a sailor for other 
mistress ? Is your Lucrece more graceful, my Caius ?" 

He gazed at the coming ship, and justified his pride. A 
white sail was bent to the low mast, and the oars dipped, 
arose, poised a moment, then dipped again, with wing-like 
action, and in perfect time. 

" Yes, spare the gods," he said, soberly, his eyes fixed 
upon^ the vessel. " They send us opportunities. Ours the 
fault if we fail. And as for the Greeks, you forget, O my 
Lentulus, the pirates I am going to punish are Greeks. One 
victory over them is of more account than a hundred over 
the Africans." 

"Then thy way is to the ^gean?" 

The sailor's eyes were full of his ship. 

" What grace, what freedom ! A bird hath not less care 
for the fretting of the waves. See 1" he said, but almost im- 
mediately added, " Thy pardon, my Lentulus. I am going 
to the ./£^ean ; and as my departure is so near, I will tell 
the occasion— only keep it under the rose. I would not 
that you abuse the duumvir when next you meet him. He 
is my friend. The trade between Greece and Alexandria, 
as ye may have heard, is hardly inferior to that between 
Alexandria and Rome. The people in that part of the world 
forgot to celebrate the Cerealia, and Triptolemus paid them 
with a harvest not worth the gathering. At all events, the 
trade is so grown that it will not brook interruption a day. 

a 



130 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

Ye may also have beard of the Chersonesan pirates, nested 
up in the Euxine ; none bolder, by the Bacchse I Yesterday 
word came to Rome that, with a fleet, they had rowed down 
the Bosphorus, sunk the galleys ofE Byzantium and Chalce- 
don, swept the Propontis, and, still unsated, burst through 
into the -^gean. The corn-merchants who have ships in 
the East Mediterranean are frightened. They had audience 
with the Emperor himself, and from Ravenna there go to-day 
a hundred galleys, and from Misenum " — he paused as if to 
pique the curiosity of his friends, and ended with an em- 
phatic — " one." 

" Happy Quintus ! We congratulate thee !" 

" The preferment f orerunneth promotion. We salute thee 
duumvir ; nothing less." 

" Quintus Arrius, the duumvir, hath a better sound than 
Quintus Arrius, the tribune." 

In such manner they showered him with congratulations. 

"I am glad with the rest," said the bibulous friend, 
"very glad; but I must be practical, O my duumvir; and 
not until I know if promotion will help thee to knowledge 
of the tesserae will I have an opinion as to whether the gods 
mean thee ill or good in this — this business." 

" Thanks, many thanks!" Arrius replied, speaking to them 
collectively. "Had ye but lanterns, I would say ye were 
augurs. Ferpol! I >vill go further, and show what master 
diviners ye are ! See — and read." 

From the folds of his toga he drew a roll of paper, and 
passed it to them, saying, " Received while at table last night 
from — Sejanus." 

The name was already a great one in the Roman world ; 
great, and not so infamous as it afterwards became. 

" Sejanus !" they exclaimed, with one voice, closing in to 
read what the minister had written. 

" Sejanus to C. Ccecilius Ruftis^ Duumvir. 

"Rome, XIX. Kal. Sept. 
" Csesar hath good report of Quintus Arrius, the tribune. In par- 
ticular he hath heard of his valor, matiifested in the western seas ; in- 
somuch that it is his will that the said Quintus be transferred instant- 
ly to the East. 

" It is our Ceesar's will, further, that you cause a hundred triremes, 
of the first class, and full appointment, to be despatched without de- 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 131 

lay against the pirates who have appeared in the ^gean, and that 
Quintus be sent to command the fleet so despatched. 

*^ Details are thine, my Caecilius. 

" The necessity is urgent, as thou wilt be advised by the reports en- 
closed for thy perusal and the information of the said Quintus. 

" Sejanus." 

Arrius gave little heed to the reading. As the ship drew 
more plainly out of the perspective, she hecame more and 
more an attraction to him. The look with which he watched 
her was that of an enthusiast. At length he tossed the loos- 
ened folds of his toga in the air ; in reply to the signal, over 
the aplustrCj or fan-like fixture at the stern of the vessel, a 
scarlet flag was displayed; while several sailors appeared 
upon the bulwarks, and swung themselves hand over hand 
up the ropes to the antenna^ or yard, and furled the sail. 
The bow was put round, and the time of the oars increased 
one half ; so that at racing speed she bore down directly 
towards him and his friends. He observed the manoeuvring 
with a perceptible brightening of the eyes. Her instant an- 
swer to the rudder, and the steadiness with which she kept 
her course, were especially noticeable as virtues to be relied 
upon in action. 

** By the Nymphaj !" said one of the friends, giving back 
the roll, *' we may not longer say our friend will be great ; 
he is already great. Our love will now have famous things 
to feed upon. What more hast thou for us ?" 

" Nothing more," Arrius replied. " What ye have of the 
afiEair is by this time old news in Rome, especially between 
the palace and the Forum. The duumvir is discreet ; what 
I am to do, where go to find my fleet, he will tell on the 
ship, where a sealed package is waiting me. If, however, 
ye have offerings for any of the altars to-day, pray the gods 
for a friend plying oar and sail somewhere in the direction 
of Sicily. But she is here, and will come to," he said, revert- 
ing to the vessel. ** I have interest in her masters ; they will 
saU and fight with me. It is not an easy thing to lay ship side 
on a shore like this ; so let us judge their training and skill." 

" What, is she new to thee ?" 

" I never saw her before ; and, as yet, I know not if she 
will bring me one acquaintance." 



132 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

" Is that well ?" 

" It matters but little. We of the sea come to know 
each other quickly ; our loves, like our hates, are bom of 
sudden dangers." 

The vessel was of the class called naves lihumicoe — long^ 
narrow, low in the water, and modelled for speed and quick 
manoeuvre. The bow was beautiful. A jet of water spun 
from its foot as she came on, sprinkling all the prow, which 
rose in graceful curvature twice a man's stature above the 
plane of the deck. Upon the bending of the sides were 
figures of Triton blowing shells. Below the bow, fixed to 
the keel, and projecting forward under the water-line, was 
the rostrum^ or beak, a device of solid wood, reinforced and 
armed with iron, in action used as a ram. A stout mould- 
ing extended from the bow the full length of the ship's 
sides, defining the bulwarks, which were tastefully crene- 
lated ; below the moulding, in three rows, each covered with 
a cap or shield of bull-hide, were the holes in which the oars 
were worked — sixty on the right, sixty on the left. In fur- 
ther ornamentation, caducei leaned against the lofty prow. 
Two immense ropes passing across the bow marked the 
number of anchors stowed on the foredeck. 

The simplicity of the upper works declared the oars the 
chief dependence of the crew. A mast, set a little forward 
of midship, was held by fore and back stays and shrouds 
fixed to rings on the inner side of the bulwarks. The tackle 
was that required for the management of one great square 
sail and the yard to which it was hung. Above the bul- 
wark the deck was visible. 

Save the sailors who had reefed the sail, and yet lingered 
on the yard, but one man was to be seen by the party on 
the mole, and he stood by the prow helmeted and with a 
shield. 

The hundred and twenty oaken blades, kept white and 
shining by pumice and the constant wash of the waves, rose 
and fell as if operated by the same hand, and drove the gal- 
ley forward with a speed rivalling that of a modem steamer. 

So rapidly, and apparently so rashly, did she come that 
the landsmen of the tribune's party were alarmed. Sudden- 
ly the man by the prow raised his hand with a peculiar 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 133 

gesture ; whereupon all the oars flew up, poised a moment 
in air, then fell straight down. The water boiled and bub- 
bled about them ; the galley shook in every timber, and 
stopped as if scared. Another gesture of the hand, and 
again the oars arose, feathered, and fell ; but this time those 
on the right, dropping towards the stern, pushed forward ; 
while those on the left, dropping towards the bow, pulled 
backward. Three times the oars thus pushed and pulled 
against each other. Round to the right the ship swung as 
upon a pivot ; then, caught by the wind, she settled gently 
broadside to the mole. 

The movement brought the stern to view, with all its gar- 
niture — ^Tritons like those at the bow ; name in large raised 
letters ; the rudder at the side ; the elevated platform upon 
which the helmsman sat, a stately figure in full armor, his 
hand upon the rudder-rope ; and the aplustre, high, gilt, 
carved, and bent over the helmsman like a great runcinate 
leaf. 

In the midst of the rounding-to, a trumpet was blown 
brief and shrill, and from the hatchways out poured the 
marines, all in superb equipment, brazen helms, burnished 
shields, and javelins. While the fighting-men thus went to 
quarters as f6r action, the sailors proper climbed the shrouds 
and perched themselves along the yard. The officers and 
musicians took their posts. There was no shouting or need- 
less noise. When the oars touched the mole, a bridge was 
sent out from the helmsman's deck. Then the tribune 
turned to his party and said, with a gravity he had not be* 
fore shown : 

" Duty now, O my friends." 

He took the chaplet from his head and gave it to the 
dice-player. 

" Take thou the myrtle, O favorite of the tesserae !" he 
said. " If I return, I will seek my sesterce again ; if I am 
not victor, I will not return. Hang the crown in thy 
atrium." 

To the company he opened his arms, and they came one 
by one and received his parting embrace. 

" The gods go with thee, Quintus !" they said. 

" Farewell," he replied. 



134 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

To the slaves waving their torches he waved his hand ; 
then he turned to the waiting ship, beautiful with ordered 
ranks and crested helms, and shields and javelins. As he 
stepped upon the bridge, the trumpets sounded, and over 
the aplustre rose the vexillum purpureum^ or pennant of a 
commander of a fleet. 



Chapter IL 

The tribune, standing upon the helmsman's deck with 
the order of the duumvir open in his hand, spoke to the 
chief of the rowers.* 

" What force hast thou ?" 

" Of oarsmen, two hundred and fifty-two ; ten supernu- 
meraries." 

" Making reliefs of — " 

" Eighty-four." 

"And thy habit?" 

" It has been to take off and put on every two hours." 

The tribune mused a moment. 

" The division is hard, and I will reform it, but not now. 
The oars may not rest day or night." 

Then to the sailing-master he said, 

" The wind is fair. Let the sail help the oars." 

"When the two thus addressed were gone, he turned to 
the chief pilot. f 

"What service hast thou had?" 

" Two-and-thirty years." 

" In what seas chiefly ?" 

" Between our Rome and the East." 

" Thou art the man I would have chosen." 

The tribune looked at his orders again. 

" Past the Camponellan cape, the course will be to Mes- 
sina. Beyond that, follow the bend of the Calabrian shore 
till Melito is on thy left, then — Knowest thou the stars 
that govern in the Ionian Sea ?" 

* Called hortator. f Called rector. 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 



135 



" I know them well." 

" Then from Melito course eastward for Cythera. Tlio 
gods willing, I will not anchor until in the Bay of Ante- 
mona. The duty is urgent. I rely upon thee." 

A prudent man was Arrius — prudent^ and of the class 
which, while enriching the altars at Prajneste and Antium, 
was of opinion, nevertheless, that the favor of the blind 
goddess depended more upon the votary's care and judg- 
ment than upon his gifts and vows. All night as master 
of the feast he had sat at table drinking and playing ; yet 
the odor of the sea returned him to the mood of the sailor, 
and he would not rest until he knew his ship. Knowledge 
leaves no room for chances. Having begun with the chief 
of the rowers, the sailing-master, and the pilot, in company 
with the other officers — the commander of the marines, the 
keeper of the stores, the master of the machines, the over- 
seer of the kitchen or fires — ho passed through the several 
quarters. Nothing escaped his inspection. When he was 
through, of the community crowded within the narrow 
walls he alone knew perfectly all there was of material 
preparation for the voyage and its possible incidents ; and, 
fending the preparation complete, there was left him but 
one thing further — thorough knowledge of the personnel 
of his command. As this was the most delicate and diffi- 
cult part of his task, requiring much time, he set about it 
his own way. 

At noon that day the galley was skimming the sea off 
Pffistum. The wind was yet from the west, filling the sail 
to the master's content. The watches had been established. 
On the forodock the altar had been set and sprinkled with 
salt and barley, and before it the tribune had offered sol- 
emn prayers to Jove and to Neptune and all the Oceanidro, 
and, with vows, poured the wine and burned the incense. 
And now, the better to study his men, ho was seated in the 
great cabin, a very martial figure. 

The cabin, it should be stated, w»as the central compart- 
ment of the galley, in extent quite sixty-five by thirty feet, 
and lighted by three broad hatchways. A row of stan- 
chions ran from end to end, supporting the roof, and near 
the centre the mast was visible, all bristling with axes and 



136 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

spears and javelins. To each hatchway there were double 
stairs descending right and left, with a pivotal arrangement 
at the top to allow the lower ends to be hitched to the ceil- 
ing; and, as these were now raised, the compartment had 
the appearance of a skylighted hall. 

The reader will understand readily that this was the 
heart of the ship, the home of all aboard — eating-room, 
sleeping-chamber, field of exercise, lounging-place off duty 
— uses made possible by the laws which reduced life there 
to minute details and a routine relentless as death. 

At the after-end of the cabin there was a platform, reach- 
ed by several steps. Upon it the chief of the rowers sat; 
in front of him a sounding-table, upon which, with a gavel, 
he beat time for the oarsmen ; at his right a clepsydra, or 
water-clock, to measure the reliefs and watches. Above 
him, on a higher platform, well guarded by gilded railing, 
the tribune had his quarters, overlooking everything, and 
furnished with a couch, a table, and a cathedra, or chair, 
cushioned, and with arms and high back — articles which 
the imperial dispensation permitted of the utmost elegance. 

Thus at ease, lounging in the great chair, swaying with 
the motion of the vessel, the military cloak half draping 
his tunic, sword in belt, Anius kept watchful eye over his 
command, and was as closely watched by them. He saw 
critically everything in view, but dwelt longest upon the 
rowers. The reader would doubtless have done the same ; 
only he would have looked with much sympathy, while, as 
is the habit with masters, the tribune's mind ran forward 
of what he saw, inquiring for results. 

The spectacle was simple enough of itself. Along the 
sides of the cabin, fixed to the ship's timbers, were what at 
first appeared to be three rows of benches; a closer view, 
however, showed them a succession of rising banks, in each 
of which the second bench was behind and above the first 
one, and the third above and behind the second. To ac- 
commodate the sixty rowers on a side, the space devoted 
to them permitted nineteen banks separated by intervals 
of one yard, with a twentieth bank divided so that what 
would have been its upper seat or bench was directly above 
the lower seat of the first bank. The arrangement gave 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 137 

each rower when at work ample room, if he timed his 
movements with those of his associates, the principle being 
that of soldiers marching with cadenced step in close order. 
The arrangement also allowed a multiplication of banks, 
limited only by the length of the galley. 

As to the rowers, those upon the first and second bench- 
es sat, while those upon the third, having longer oars to 
work, were suffered to stand. The oars were loaded with 
lead in the handles, and near the point of balance hung to 
pliable thongs, making possible the delicate touch called 
feathering, but, at the same time, increasing the need of 
skill, since an eccentric wave might at any moment catch a 
heedless fellow and hurl him from his seat. Each oar-hole 
was a vent through which the laborer opposite it had his 
plenty of sweet air. Light streamed down upon him from 
the grating which formed the floor of the passage between 
the deck and the bulwark over his head. In some respects, 
therefore, the condition of the men might have been much 
worse. Still, it must not be imagined that there was any 
pleasantness in their lives. Communication between them 
was not allowed. Day after day they filled their places with- 
out speech ; in hours of labor they could not see each oth- 
er's faces; their short respites were given to sleep and the 
snatching of food. They never laughed ; no one ever heard 
one of them sing. What is the use of tongues when a sigh 
or a groan will tell all men feel while, perforce, they think 
in silence? Existence with the poor wretches was like a 
stream under ground sweeping slowly, laboriously on to its 
outlet, wherever that might chance to be. 

Son of Mary ! The sword has now a heart — and thine 
the glory ! So now ; but, in the days of which we are writ- 
ing, for captivity there was drudgery on walls, and in the 
streets and mines, and the galleys both of war and commerce 
were insatiable. When Druilius won the first sea-fight for 
his country, Romans plied the oars, and the glory was to 
the rower not less than the marine. These benches which 
now we are trying to see as they were testified to the 
change come with conquest, and illustrated both the policy 
and the prowess of Rome. Nearly all the nations had sons 
there, mostly prisoners of war, chosen for their brawn and 



138 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

endurance. In one place a Briton ; before him a Libyan ; 
behind him a Crimean. Elsewhere a Scythian, a Gaul, and 
a Thebasite. Roman convicts cast down to consort with 
Goths and Longobardi, Jews, Ethiopians, and barbarians 
from the shores of MaBotis. Here an Athenian, there a red- 
haired savage from Hibemia, yonder blue-eyed giants of 
the Cimbri. 

In the labor of the rowers there was not enough art to 
give occupation to their minds, rude and simple as they 
were. The reach forward, the pull, the feathering the blade, 
the dip, were all there was of it; motions most perfect 
when most automatic. Even the care forced upon them by 
the sea outside grew in time to be a thing instinctive rather 
than of thought So, as the result of long service, the poor 
wretches became imbruted — patient, spiritless, obedient — 
creatures of vast muscle and exhausted intellects, who lived 
upon recollections generally few but dear, and at last low- 
ered into the semi-conscious alchemic state wherein misery 
turns to habit, and the soul takes on incredible endurance. 

From right to left, hour after hour, the tribune, swaying 
in his easy-chair, turned with thought of everything rather 
than the wretchedness of the slaves upon the benches. 
Their motions, precise, and exactly the same on both sides 
of the vessel, after a while became monotonous ; and then he 
amused himself singling out individuals. With his stylus 
he made note of objections, thinking, if all went well, he 
would find among the pirates of whom he was in search 
better men for the places. 

There was no need of keeping the proper names of the 
slaves brought to the galleys as to their graves ; so, for con- 
venience, they were usually identified by the numerals paint- 
ed upon the benches to which they were assigned. As the 
sharp eyes of the great man moved from seat to seat on 
either hand, they came at last to number sixty, which, as 
has been said, belonged properly to the last bank on the 
left-hand side, but, wanting room aft, had been fixed above 
the first bench of the first bank. There they rested. 

The bench of number sixty was slightly above the level 
of the platform, and but a few feet away. The light glint- 
ing through the grating over his head gave the rower fairly 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CURIST. 139 

to the tribune's view — erect, and, like all his fellows, naked, 
except a cincture about the loins. There were, however, 
some points in his favor. He was very young, not more 
than twenty. Furthermore, Arrius was not merely given to 
dice; he was a connoisseur of men physically, and when 
ashore indulged a habit of visiting the gymnasia to see and 
admire the most famous athletse. From some professor, 
doubtless, he had caught the idea that strength was as much 
of the quality as the quantity of the muscle, while superi- 
ority in performance required a certain mind as well as 
strength. Having adopted the doctrine, like most men with 
a hobby, he was always looking for illustrations to sup- 
port it. 

The reader may well believe that while the tribune, in the 
search for the perfect, was often called upon to stop and 
study, he was seldom perfectly satisfied — in fact, very sel- 
dom held as Ions: as on this occasion. 

In the beginning of each movement of the oar, the rower's 
body and face were brought into profile view from the plat- 
form ; the movement ended with the body reversed, and in 
a pushing posture. The grace and ease of the action at first 
suggested a doubt of the honesty of the effort put forth ; 
but it was speedily dismissed ; the firmness with which the 
oar was held while in the reach forward, its bending under 
the push, were proofs of the force applied ; not that only, 
they as certainly proved the rower's art, and put the critic in 
the great arm-chair in search of the combination of strength 
and cleverness which was the central idea of his theory. 

In course of the study, Arrius observed the subject's 
youth ; wholly unconscious of tenderness on that account, 
lie also observed that he seemed of good height, and that 
his limbs, upper and nether, were singularly perfect. The 
arms, perhaps, were too long, but the objection was well 
bidden under a mass of muscle which, in some movements, 
swelled and knotted like kinking cords. Every rib in the 
round body was discernible; yet the leanness was the 
healthful reduction so strained after in the palaestrae. And 
altogether there was in the rower's action a certain harmony 
which, besides addressing itself to the tribune's theory, stim- 
ulated both his curiosity and general interest. 



140 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

Very soon lie found himself waiting to catch a view of 
the man's face in full. The head was shapely, and balanced 
upon a neck broad at the base, but of exceeding pliancy 
and grace. The features in profile were of Orient^ outline, 
and of that delicacy of expression which has always been 
thought a sign of blood and sensitive spirit. With these 
observations, the tribune's interest in the subject deepened. 

" By the gods," he said to himself, " the fellow impresses 
me ! He promises well. I will know more of him." 

Directly the tribune caught the view he wished — ^the 
rower turned and looked at him. 

*' A Jew I and a boy !" 

Under the gaze then fixed steadily upon him, the large 
eyes of the slave grew larger — the blood surged to his very 
brows — the blade lingered in his hands. But instantly, 
with an angry crash, down fell the gavel of the hortator. 
The rower started, withdrew his face from the inquisitor, 
and, as if personally chidden, dropped the oar half feathered. 
When he glanced again at the tribune, he was vastly more 
astonished — he was met with a kindly smile. 

Meantime the galley entered the Straits of Messina, and, 
skimming past the city of that name, was after a while turned 
eastward, leaving the cloud over -^tna in the sky astern. 

Often as Arrius returned to his platform in the cabin he 
returned to study the rower, and he kept saying to himself, 
"The fellow hath a spirit. A Jew is not a barbarian. I 
will know more of him." 



Chapter IIL 

The fourth day out, and the Astrcea — so the galley was 
named — speeding through the Ionian Sea. The sky was 
clear, and the wind blew as if bearing the good-will of all 
the gods. 

As it was possible to overtake the fleet before reaching 
the bay east of the island of Cythera, designated for assem- 
blage, Arrius, somewhat impatient, spent much time on 
deck. He took note diligently of matters pertaining to his 
ship, and, as a rule, was well pleased. In the cabin, swinging 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 141 

in the great chair, his thought continually reverted to the 
rower on number sixty. 

"Knowest thou the man just come from yon bench!" 
he at length asked of the hortator. 

A relief was going on at the moment. 

" From number sixty ?" returned the chief. 

" Yes." 

The chief looked sharply at the rower then going for- 
ward. 

" As thou knowest," he replied, " the ship is but a month 
from the maker's hand, and the men are as new to me as 
the ship." 

" He is a Jew," Arrius remarked, thoughtfully. 

" The noble Quintus is shrewd." 

" He is very young," Arrius continued. 

" But our best rower," said the other. " I have seen his 
oar bend almost to breaking." 

" Of what disposition is he ?" 

" He is obedient ; further I know not. Once he made 
request of me." 

" For what ?" 

" He wished me to change him alternately from the right 
to the left." 

" Did he give a reason ?" 

" He had observed that the men who are confined to one 
side become misshapen. He also said that some dav of 
storm or battle there might be sudden need to change him, 
and he might then be unserviceable." 

" Perpol! The idea is new. What else hast thou ob- 
served of him ?" 

" He is cleanly above his companions." 

" In that he is Roman," said Arrius, approvingly. " Have 
you nothing of his history ?" 

" Not a word." 

The tribune reflected awhile, and turned to go to his own 
seat. 

" If I should be on deck when his time is up," he paused 
to say, " send him to me. Let him come alone." 

About two hours later Arrius stood under the aplustre of 
the galley ; in the mood of one who, seeing himself carried 



142 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

swiftly towards an event of mighty import, has nothing to 
do but wait — the mood in which philosophy vests an even- 
minded man with the utmost calm, and is ever so service- 
able. The pilot sat with a hand upon the rope by which 
the rudder paddles, one on each side of the vessel, were 
managed. In the shade of the sail, some sailors lay asleep, 
and up on the yard there was a lookout. Lifting his 
eyes from the solarium set under the aplustre for reference 
in keeping the course, Arrius beheld the rower approach- 
ing. 

** The chief called thee the noble Arrius, and said it was 
thy will that I should seek thee here. I am come." 

Arrius surveyed the figure, tall, sinewy, glistening in the 
sun, and tinted by the rich red blood within — surveyed it 
admiringly, and with a thought of the arena ; yet the man- 
ner was not without eifect upon him: there was in the 
voice a suggestion of life at least partly spent under refin- 
ing influences; the eyes were clear and open, and more 
curious than defiant. To the shrewd, demanding, mas- 
terful glance bent upon it, the face gave back nothing to 
mar its youthful comeliness — nothing of accusation or sul- 
lenness or menace, only the signs which a great sorrow 
long borne imprints, as time mellows the surface of pict- 
ures. In tacit acknowledgment of the effect, the Roman 
spoke as an older man to a younger, not as a master to a 
slave. 

" The hortator tells me thou art his best rower." 

" The hortator is very kind," the rower answered. 

" Hast thou seen much service ?" 

" About three years." 

" At the oars ?" 

" I cannot recall a day of rest from them." 

"The labor is hard; few men bear it a year without 
breaking, and thou — thou art but a boy." 

"The noble Arrius forgets that the spirit hath much to 
do with endurance. By its help the weak sometimes thrive, 
when the strong perish." 

" From thy speech, thou art a Jew." 

" My ancestors further back than the first Roman were 
Hebrews." 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 143 

"The stubborn pride of thy race is not lost in thee," 
said Arrius, observing a flush upon the rower's face. 

" Pride is never so loud as when in chains." 

" What cause hast thou for pride ?" 

" That I am a Jew." 

Arrius smiled. 

" I have not been to Jerusalem," he said ; " but I have 
beard of its princes. I knew one of them. He was a mer- 
chant, and sailed the seas. He was fit to have been a kin<r. 
Of what degree art thou ?" 

" I must answer thee from the bench of a galley. I am 
of the degree of slaves. My father was a prince of Jeru- 
salem, and, as a merchant, he sailed the seas. He was 
known and honored in the guest-chamber of the great 
Augustus." 

" His name ?" 

" Ithamar, of the house of Hur." 

The tribune raised his hand in astonishment 

" A son of Hur— thou ?" 

After a silence, he asked, 

" What brought thee here ?" 

Judah lowered his head, and his breast labored hard. 
When his feelings were sufficiently mastered, he looked the 
tribune in the face, and answered, 

"I was accused of attempting to assassinate Valerius 
Gratna, the procurator." 

** Thou !" cried Arrius, yet more amazed, and retreating a 
step. " Thou that assassin ! All Rome rang with the story. 
It came to my ship in the river by Lodinum." 

The two regarded each other silently. 

" I thought the family of Hur blotted from the earth," 
said Arrius, speaking first. 

A flood of tender recollections carried the young man's 
pride away ; tears shone upon his cheeks. 

" Mother — mother ! And my little Tirzah ! Where are 
they? O tribune, noble tribune, if thou knowest anything 
of them" — he clasped his hands in appeal — "tell me all 
thou knowest. Tell me if they are living — if living, where 
are they ? and in what condition ? Oh, I pray thee, tell 
me I" 



144 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

He drew nearer Arrius, so near that his bands touched 
the cloak where it dropped from the latter's folded arms. 

"The horrible day is three years gone," he continued — 
" three years, O tribune, and every hour a whole lifetime of 
misery — a lifetime in a bottomless pit with death, and no 
relief but in labor — and in all that time not a word from 
any one, not a whisper. Oh, if, in being forgotten, we could 
only forget! If only I could hide from that scene — my 
sister torn from me, my mother's last look! I have felt 
the plague's breath, and the shock of ships in battle; I 
have heard the tempest lashing the sea, and laughed, though 
others prayed : death would have been a riddance. Bend 
the oar — yes, in the strain of mighty effort trying to escape 
the haunting of what that day occurred. Think what little 
will help me. Tell me they are dead, if no more, for happy 
they cannot be while I am lost. I have heard them call me 
in the night ; I have seen them on the water walking. Oh, 
never anything so true as my mother's love ! And Tirzah — 
her breath was as the breath of white lilies. She was the 
youngest branch of the palm — so fresh, so tender, so grace- 
ful, so beautiful ! She made my day all morning. She 
came and went in music. And mine was the hand that 
laid them low I I — " 

" Dost thou admit thy guilt ?" asked Arrius, sternly. 

The change that came upon Ben-Hur was wonderful to 
see, it was so instant and extreme. The voice sharpened ; 
the hands arose tight-clenched; every fibre thrilled; his 
eyes flamed. 

" Thou hast heard of the God of my fathers," he said ; 
" of the infinite Jehovah. By his truth and al mightiness, 
and by the love with which he hath followed Israel from the 
beginning, I swear I am innocent !" 

The tribune was much moved. 

" O noble Roman !" continued Ben-Hur, " give me a little 
faith, and, into my darkness, deeper darkening every day, 
send a light !" 

Arrius turned away, and walked the deck. 

" Didst thou not have a trial ?" he asked, stopping sud- 
denly. 

" No !" 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 145 

The Roman raised bis head, surprised. 

" No trial — no witnesses I Who passed judgment upon 

Romans, it should be remembered, were at no time such 
lovers of the law and its forms as in the ages of their decay. 

'* They bound me with cords, and dragged me to a vault 
in the Tower. I saw no one. No one spoke to me. Next 
day soldiers took me to the seaside. I nave been a galley- 
slave ever since." 

" What couldst thou have proven ?" 

" I was a boy, too young to be a conspirator. Gratus 
was a stranger to me. If I had meant to kill him, that was 
not the time or the place. He was ridiug in the midst of a 
legion, and it was broad day. I could not have escaped. I 
was of a class most friendly to Rome. My father had been 
xiistinguished for his services to the emperor. We had a 
great estate to lose. Ruin was certain to myself, my 
mother, my sister. I had no cause for malice, while ev- 
ery consideration — property, family, life, conscience, the 
Law — to a son of Israel as the breath of his nostrils — would 
have stayed my hand, though the foul intent had been ever 
so strong. I was not mad. Death was preferable to shame ; 
and, believe me, I pray, it is so yet." 

** Who was with thee when the blow was struck ?" 

"I was on the house-top — my father's house. Tirzah 
was with me — at my side — the soul of gentleness. To- 
gether we leaned over the parapet to see the legion pass. 
A tile gave way under my hand, and fell upon Gratus. I 
thought I had killed him. Ah, what horror I felt I" 

" Where was thy mother ?" 

" In her chamber below." 

" What became of her ?" 

Ben-Hur clenched his hands, and drew a breath like a 
gasp. 

" I do not know. I saw them drag her away — that is all 
I know. Out of the house they drove every living thing, 
even the dumb cattle, and they sealed the gates. The pur- 
pose was that she should not return. I, too, ask for her. 
Oh for one word ! She, at least, was innocent. I can for- 
give — but I pray thy pardon, noble tribune 1 A slave like 
10 



146 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

me should not talk of forgiveness or of revenge. I am 
bound to an oar for life." 

Arrius listened intently. He brought all his experience 
with slaves to his aid. If the feeling shown in this instance 
were assumed, the acting was perfect ; on the other hand, 
if it were real, the Jew's innocence might not be doubted ; 
and if he were innocent, with what blind fury the power 
had been exercised ! A whole family blotted out to atone 
an accident ! The thought shocked him. 

There is no wiser providence than that our occupations, 
however rude or bloody, cannot wear us out morally ; that 
such qualities as justice and mercy, if they really possess us, 
continue to live on under them, like flowers under the 
snow. The tribune could be inexorable, else he' had not 
been fit for the usages of his calling ; he could also be just ; 
and to excite his sense of wrong was to put him in the way 
to right the wrong. The crews of the ships in which he 
served came after a time to speak of him as the good trib- 
une. Shrewd readers will not want a better definition of 
his character. 

In this instance there were many circumstances certainly 
in the young man's favor, and some to be supposed. Pos- 
sibly Arrius knew Valerius Gratus without loving him. 
Possibly he had known the elder Hur. In the course of his 
appeal, Judah had asked him of that ; and, as will be no- 
ticed, he had made no reply. 

For once the tribune was at loss, and hesitated. His 
power was ample. He was monarch of the ship. His pre- 
possessions all moved him to mercy. His faith was won. 
Yet, he said to himself, there was no haste — or, rather, 
there was haste to Cythera ; the best rower could not then 
be spared ; he would wait ; he would learn more ; he would 
at least be sure this was the prince Ben-Hur, and that 
he was of a right disposition. Ordinarily, slaves were 
liars. 

" It is enough," he said aloud. " Go back to thy place." 

Ben-Hur bowed; looked once more into the master's 
face, but saw nothing for hope. He turned away slowly, 
looked back, and said, 

" If thou dost think of me again, tribune, let it not 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 147 

be lost in thy mind that- 1 prayed thee only for word of 
my people — mother, sister." 

He moved on. 

Arrius followed him with admiring eyes. 

" Perpol r he thought. " With teaching, what a man 
for the arena ! What a runner ! Ye gods ! what an arm 
for the sword or the cestus ! — Stay !" he said aloud. 

Ben-Hur stopped, and the tribune went to him. 

" K thou wert free, what wouldst thou do ?" 

" The noble Arrius mocks me !" Judah said, with trem- 
bling lips. 

" No ; by the gods, no !" 

" Then I will answer gladly. I would give myself to duty 
the first of life. I would know no other. I would know 
no rest until my mother and Tirzah were restored to home. 
I would give eyery day and hour to their happiness. I 
would wait upon them ; never a slave more faithful. They 
have lost much, but, by the God of my fathers, I would 
find them more !" 

The answer was unexpected by the Eoman. For a mo- 
ment he lost his purpose. 

*' I spoke to thy ambition," he said, recovering. " If thy 
mother and sister were dead, or not to be found, what 
wouldst thou do ?" 

A . distinct pallor overspread Ben-Hur's face, and he 
looked over the sea. There was a struggle with some 
strong feeling ; when it was conquered, he turned to the 
tribune. 

" What pursuit would I follow ?" he asked. 

"Yes." 

" Tribune, I will tell thee truly. Only the night before 
the dreadful day of which I have spoken, I obtained per- 
mission to be a soldier. I am of the same mind yet ; and, 
as in all the earth there is but one school of war, thither I 
would go." 

" The palsestra !" exclaimed Arrius. 

" No ; a Roman camp." 

"But thou must first acquaint thyself with the use of 
arras." 

Now a master may never safely advise a slave. Attva^ 



148 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CBEIST. 

saw his indiscretion, and, in a breath, chilled his voice and 
manner. 

" Go now," he said, " and do not build upon what has 
passed between us. Perhaps I do but play with thee. Or," 
— he looked away musingly — " or, if thou dost think of it 
with any hope, choose between the renown of a gladiator 
and the service of a soldier. The former may come of the 
favor of the emperor ; there is no reward for thee in the 
latter. Thou art not a Eoman. Go !" 

A short while after Ben-Hur was upon his bench again. 

A man's task is always light if his heart is light. Hand- 
ling the oar did not seem so toilsome to Judah. A hope 
had come to him, like a singing bird. He could hardly see 
the visitor ox hear its song ; that it was there, though, he 
knew ; his feelings told him so. The caution of the trib- 
une — " Perhaps I do but play with thee " — was dismissed 
often as it recurred to his mind. That h^ had been called 
by the great man and asked his story was the bread upon 
which he fed his hungry spirit. Surely something good 
would come of it. The light about his bench was clear and 
bright with promises, and he prayed. 

" O God ! I am a true son of the Israel thou hast so 
loved ! Help me, I pray thee !" 



Chapter IV. 

In the Bay of Antemona, east of Cythera the island, the 
hundred galleys assembled. There the tribune gave one 
day to inspection. He sailed then to Naxos, the largest of 
the Cyclades, midway the coasts of Greece and Asia, like a 
great stone planted in the centre of a highway, from which 
he could chadlenge everything that passed ; at the same time, 
he would be in position to go after the pirates instantly, 
whether they were in the -^gean or out on the Mediterra- 
nean. 

As the fleet, in order, rowed in towards the mountain 
shores of the island, a galley was descried coming from 
the north. Arrius went to meet it. She proved to be a 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 149 

transport just from Byzantium, and from her commander 
he learned the particulars of which he stood in most need. 

The pirates were from all the farther shores of the Eux- 
ine. Even Tanais, at the mouth of the river which was sup- 
posed to feed Palus Mseotis, was represented among them. 
Their preparations had been with the greatest secrecy. 
The first known of them was their appearance off the en- 
trance to the Thracian Bosphorus, followed by the destruc- 
tion of the fleet in station there. Thence to the outlet 
of the Hellespont everything afloat had fallen their prey. 
There were quite sixty galleys in the squadron, all well 
manned and supplied. A few were biremes, the rest stout 
triremes. A Greek was in command, and the pilots, said 
to be familiar with all the Eastern seas, were Greek. The 
plunder had been incalculable. The panic, consequently, 
was not on the sea alone; cities, with closed gates, sent 
their people nightly to the walls. Traffic had almost 
ceased. 

Where were the pirates now ? 

To this question, of most interest to Arrius, he received 
answer. 

After sacking Hephaestia, on the island of Lemnos, the 
enemy had coursed across to the Thessalian group, and, by 
last account, disappeared in the gulfs between Euboea and 
Hellas. 

Such were the tidings. 

Then the people of the island, drawn to the hill-tops by 
the rare spectacle of a hundred ships careering in united 
squadron, beheld the advance division suddenly turn to the 
north, and the others follow, wheeling upon the same point 
like cavalry in a column. News of the piratical descent had 
reached them, and now, watching the white sails until they 
faded from sight up between Rhene and Syros, the thought- 
ful among them took comfort, and were grateful. What 
Rome seized with strong hand she always defended : in re- 
turn for their taxes, she gave them safety. 

The tribune was more than pleased with the enemy's 
movements ; he was doubly thankful to Fortune. She had 
brought swift and sure intelligence, and had lured his foes 
into the waters where, of all others, destruction was most as- 



150 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHIOST. 

sured. He knew the havoc one galley could play in a broad 
sea like the Mediterranean, and the difficulty of finding and 
overhauling her l he knew, also, how those very circum- 
stances would enhance the service and glory if, at one blow, 
he could put a finish to the whole piratical array. 

If the reader will take a map of Greece and the JEgean, 
he will notice the island of Euboea lying along the classic 
coast like a rampart against Asia, leaving a channel between 
it and the continent quite a hundred and twenty miles in 
length, and scarcely an average of eight in width. The in- 
let on the north had admitted the fleet of Xerxes, and now 
it received the bold raiders from the Euxine. The towns 
along the Pelasgic and Meliac gulfs were rich and their 
plunder seductive. All things considered, therefore, Arrius 
judged that the robbers might be found somewhere below 
Thermopylae. Welcoming the chance, he resolved to en- 
close them north and south, to do which not an hour could 
be lost; even the fruits and wines and women of Naxos 
must be left behind. So he sailed away without stop or 
tack until, a little before nightfall. Mount Ocha was seen 
upreared against the sky, and the pilot reported the Euboean 
coast. 

At a signal the fleet rested upon its oars. When the 
movement was resumed, Arrius led a division of fifty of the 
galleys, intending to take them up the channel, while anoth- 
er division, equally strong, turned their prows to the outer 
or seaward side of the island, with orders to make all haste 
to the upper inlet, and descend sweeping the waters. 

To be sure, neither division was equal in number to the 
pirates; but each had advantages in compensation, among 
them, by no means least, a discipline impossible to a lawless 
horde, however brave. Besides, it was a shrewd count on 
the tribune's side, if, peradventure, one should be defeated, 
the other would find the enemy shattered by his victory, 
and in condition to be easily overwhelmed. 

Meantime Ben-Hur kept his bench, relieved every six 
hours. The rest in the Bay of Antemona had freshened 
him, so that the oar was not troublesome, and the chief on 
the platform found no fault. 

People, generally, are not aware of the ease of mind there 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 151 

is in knowing where they are, and where they are going. 
The sensation of being lost is a keen distress ; still worse is 
the feeling one has in driving blindly into nnknown places. 
Castom had dulled the feeling with Ben-Hur, but only 
measurably. Pulling away hour after hour, sometimes days 
and nights together, sensible all the time that the galley 
was gliding swiftly along some of the many tracks of the 
broad sea, the longing to know where he was, and whither 
going, was always present with him ; but now it seemed 
quickened by the hope which had come to new life in his 
breast since the interview with the tribune. The narrower 
the abiding-place happens to be, the more intense is the 
longing ; and so he found. He seemed to hear every sound 
of the ship in labor, and listened to each one as if it were a 
voice come to tell him something ; he looked to the grating 
overhead, and through it into the light of which so small a 
portion was his, expecting, he knew not what; and many 
times he caught himself on the point of yielding to the im- 
pulse to speak to the chief on the platform, than which no 
circumstance of battle would have astonished that dignitary 
more. 

In his long service, by watching the shifting of the mea- 
gre sunbeams upon the cabin floor when the ship was under 
way, he had come to know, generally, the quarter into 
which she was sailing. This, of course, was only of clear 
days like those good fortune was sending the tribune. The 
experience had not failed him in the period succeeding the 
departure from Cythera. Thinking they were tending tow- 
ards the old Judean country, he was sensitive to every vari- 
ation from the course. With a pang, he had observed the 
sudden change northward which, as has been noticed, took 
place near Naxos : the cause, however, he could not even 
conjecture; for it must be remembered that, in common 
with his fellow-slaves, he knew nothing of the situation, and 
had no interest in the voyage. His place was at the oar, 
and he was held there inexorably, whether at anchor or un- 
der sail. Once only in three years had he been permitted 
an outlook from the deck. The occasion we have seen. He 
had no idea that, following the vessel he was helping drive, 
there was a great squadron close at hand and in beautiful 



152 BEN-HIJR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

order ; no more did he know the object of which it was in 
pursuit 

When the sun, going down, withdrew his last ray from 
the cabin, the galley still held northward. Night fell, yet 
Ben-Hur could discern no change. About that time the 
smell of incense floated down the gangways from the deck. 

" The tribune is at the altar," he thought " Can it be 
we are going into battle ?" 

He became observant 

Now he had been in many battles without having seen 
one. From his bench he had heard them above and about 
him, until he was familiar with all their notes, almost as a 
singer with a song. So, too, he had become acquainted 
with many of the preliminaries of an engagement, of which, 
with a Roman as well as a Greek, the most invariable w&s 
the sacrifice to the gods. The rites were the same as those 
performed at the beginning of a voyage, and to him, when 
noticed, they were always an admonition. 

A battle, it should be observed, possessed for him and his 
fellow-slaves of the oar an interest unlike that of the sailor 
and marine ; it came, not of the danger encountered, but of 
the fact that defeat, if survived, might bring an alteration 
of condition — ^possibly freedom — at least a change of mas- 
ters, which might be for the better. 

In good time the lanterns were lighted and hung by the 
stairs, and the tribune came down from the deck. At his 
word the marines put on their armor. At his word again, 
the machines were looked to, and speare, javelins, and ar- 
rows, in great sheaves, brought and laid upon the floor, to- 
gether with jars of inflammable oil, and baskets of cotton balls 
wound loose like the wicking of candles. And when, finally, 
Ben-Hur saw the tribune mount his platform and don his 
armor, and get his helmet and shield out, the meaning of the 
preparations might not be any longer doubted, and he 
made ready for the last ignominy of his service. 

To every bench, as a fixture, there was a chain with heavy 
anklets. These the hortator proceeded to lock upon the 
oarsmen, going from number to number, leaving no choice 
but to obey, and, in event of disaster, no possibility of escape. 

In the cabin, then, a silence fell, broken, at first, only by 



BEX-HUR: A TALE QF THE CHRIST. 153 

the sough of the oars turning in the leathern cases. Every 
man upon the benches felt the shame, Ben-Hur more keen- 
ly than his companions. He would have put it away at any 
price. Soon the clanking of the fetters notified him of the 
progress the chief was making in his round. He would come 
to him in turn ; but would not the tribune interpose for 
him? 

The thought may be set down to vanity or selfishness, as 
the reader pleases; it certainly, at that moment, took pos- 
session of Ben-Hur. He believed the Roman would inter- 
pose ; anyhow, the circumstance would test the man's feel- 
ings. If, intent upon the battle, he would but think of him, 
it would be proof of his opinion formed — proof that he had 
been tacitly promoted above his associates in misery — such 
proof as would justify hope. 

Ben-Hur waited anxiously. The interval seemed like an 
age. At every turn of the oar he looked towards the trib- 
une, who, his simple preparations made, lay down upon 
the couch and composed himself to rest ; whereupon num- 
ber sixty chid himself, and laughed grimly, and resolved 
not to look that way again. 

The hortator approached. Now he was at number one 
— the rattle of the iron links sounded horribly. At last 
number sixty ! Calm from despair, Ben-Hur held his oar 
at poise, and gave his foot to the oflBcer. Then the tribune 
stirred — ^sat up — beckoned to the chief. 

A strong revulsion seized the Jew. From the hortator, 
the great man glanced at him; and when he dropped his 
oar all the section of the ship on his side seemed aglow. 
He heard nothing of what was said ; enough that the chain 
hung idly from its staple in the bench, and that the chief, 
going to his seat, began to beat the sounding-board. The 
notes of the gavel were never so like music. With his 
breast against the leaded handle, he pushed with all his 
might — pushed until the shaft bent as if about to break. 

The chief went to the tribune, and, smiling, pointed to 
number sixty. 

" What strength !" ho said. 

"And what spirit!" the tribune answered. "Perpolf 
He is better without the irons. Put them on him no more." 



154 BEX-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

So saying, he stretched himself upon the couch again. 

The ship sailed on hour after hour under the oars in wa- 
ter scarcely rippled by the wind. And the people not on 
duty slept, Arrius in his place, the marines on the floor. 

Once — twice — Ben-Hur yraa relieved; but he could not 
sleep. Three years of night, and through the darkness a 
sunbeam at last ! At sea adrift and lost, and now land ! 
Dead so long, and, lo ! the thrill and stir of resurrection. 
Sleep was not for such an hour. Hope deals with the fut- 
ure ; now and the past are but servants that wait on her 
with impulse and suggestive circumstance. Starting from 
the favor of the tribune, she carried him forward indefinite- 
ly. The wonder is, not that things so purely imaginative 
as the results she points us to can make us so happy, but 
that we can receive them as so real. They must be as gor- 
geous poppies under the influence of which, under the crim- 
son and purple and gold, reason Hes down the while, and is 
not. Sorrows assuaged ; home and the fortunes of his house 
restored ; mother and sister in his arms once more — such 
were the central ideas which made him happier that moment 
than he had ever been. That he was rushing, as on wings, 
into horrible battle had, for the time, nothing to do with 
his thoughts. The things thus in hope were unmixed with 
doubts — they were. Hence his joy so full, so perfect, there 
was no room in his heart for revenge. Messala, Gratus, 
Eome, and all the bitter, passionate memories connected 
with them, were as dead plagues — miasms of the earth 
above which he floated, far and safe, listening to singing 
stars. 

The deeper darkness before the dawn was upon the wa- 
ters, and all things going well with the Astrcea, when a man, 
descending from the deck, walked swiftly to the platform 
where the tribune slept, and awoke him. Arrius arose, put 
on his helmet, sword, and shield, and went to the com- 
mander of the marines. 

"The pirates are close by. Up and ready !" he said, and 
passed to the stairs, calm, confident, insomuch that one 
might have thought, " Happy fellow ! Apicius has set a 
feast for him." 



V 



BEN-HUB: A TALE OF THE CHBIST. 155 



Chapter V. 

Every soul aboard, even the ship, awoke. OflScers went 
to their quarters. The marines took arms, and were led 
out, looking in all respects like legionaries. Sheaves of ar- 
rows and armfnls of javelins were carried on deck. By 
the central stairs the oil-tanks and fire-balls were set ready 
for use. Additional lanterns were lighted. Buckets were 
filled with water. The rowers in relief assembled under 
guard in front of the chief. As Providence would have it, 
Ben-Hur was one of the latter. Overhead he heard the 
muffled noises of the final preparations — of the sailors furl- 
ing sail, spreading the nettings, unslinging the machines, 
and hanging the armor of bull-hide over the sides. Present- 
ly quiet settled about the galley again ; quiet full of vague 
dread and expectation, which, interpreted, means ready. 

At a signd passed down from the deck, and communi- 
cated to the hortator by a petty officer stationed on the 
stairs, all at once the oars stopped. 
What did it mean? 

Of the hundred and twenty slaves chained to the benches, 
not one but asked himself the question. They were with- 
out incentive. Patriotism, love of honor, sense of duty, 
brought them no inspiration. They felt the thrill common 
to men rushed helpless and blind into danger. It may be 
supposed the dullest of them, poising his oar, thought of all 
that might happen, yet could promise himself nothing ; for 
victory would but rivet his chains the firmer, while the 
chances of the ship were his; sinking or on fire, he was 
doomed to her fate. 

Of the situation without they might not ask. And who 
were the enemy ? And what if they were friends, brethren, 
countrymen ? The reader, carrying the suggestion forward, 
will see the necessity which governed the Roman when, in 
such emergencies, he locked the hapless wretches to their 
seats. 



156 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

There was little time, however, for such thought with them. 
A sound like the rowing of galleys astern attracted Ben- 
Hur, and the Astrcea rocked as if in the midst of counter- 
ing waves. The idea of a fleet at hand broke upon him — a 
fleet in manoeuvre — forming probably for attack. His blood 
started with the fancy. 

Another signal came down from the deck. The oars 
dipped, and the galley started imperceptibly. No sound 
from without, none from within, yet each man in the cabin 
instinctively poised himself for a shock ; the very ship seem- 
ed to catch the sense, and hold its breath, and go crouched 
tiger-like. 

In such a situation time is inappreciable; so that Ben- 
Hur could form no judgment of distance gone. At last 
there was a sound of trumpets on deck, full, clear, long 
blown. The chief beat the sounding-board until it rang; 
the rowers reached forward full length, and, deepening the 
dip of their oars, pulled suddenly with all their united force. 
The galley, quivering in every timber, answered with a leap. 
Other trumpets joined in the clamor — ^all from the rear, 
none forward — ^from the latter quarter only a rising sound 
of voices in tumult heard briefly. There was a mighty blow ; 
the rowers in front of the chiefs platform reeled, some 
of them fell ; the ship bounded back, recovered, and rush- 
ed on more irresistibly than before. Shrill and high arose 
the shrieks of men in terror ; over the blare of trumpets, and 
the grind and crash of the collision, they arose ; then under 
his feet, under the keel, pounding, rumbling, breaking to 
pieces, drowning, Ben-Hur felt something overridden. The 
men about him looked at each other afraid. A shout of tri- 
umph from the deck — the beak of the Roman had won ! 
But who were they whom the sea had drunk? Of what 
tongue, from what land were they ? 

No pause, no stay! Forward rushed the Astrcea; and, 
as it went, some sailors ran down, and plunging the cotton 
balls into the oil-tanks, tossed them dripping to comrades 
at the head of the stairs : fire was to be added to other hor- 
rors of the combat. 

Directly the galley heeled over so far that the oarsmen 
on the uppermost side with diflBculty kept their benches. 



BEX-UUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 157 

Again the hearty Roman cheer, and with it despairing shrieks. 
An opposing vessel, caught by the grappling-hooks of the 
great crane swinging from* the prow, was being lifted into 
the air that it might be dropped and sunk. 

The shouting increased on the right hand and on the left; 
before, behind, swelled an indescribable clamor. Occasion- 
ally there was a crash, followed by sudden peals of fright, 
telling of other ships ridden down, and their crews drowned 
in the vortexes. 

Nor was the fight all on one side. Now and then a 
Roman in armor was borne down the hatchway, and laid 
bleeding, sometimes dying, on the floor. 

Sometimes, also, pufEs of smoke, blended with steam, and 
foul with the scent of roasting human flesh, poured into the 
cabin, turning the dimming light into yellow murk. Gasp- 
ing for breath the while, Ben-Uur knew they were passing 
through the cloud of a ship on Are, and burning up with 
the rowers chained to the benches. 

The Aatrcea all this time was in motion. Suddenly she 
stopped. The oars forward were dashed from the hands of 
the rowers, and the rowers from their benches. On deck, 
then, a furious trampling, and on the sides a grinding of 
ships afoul of each other. For the first time the beating of 
the gavel was lost in the uproar. Men sank on the floor in 
fear or looked about seeking a hiding-place. In the midst 
of the panic a body plunged or was pitched headlong down 
the hatchway, falling near Ben-IIur. lie beheld the half- 
naked carcass, a mass of hair blackening the face, and under 
it a shield of bull-hide and wicker-work — a barbarian from 
the white-skinned nations of the North whom death had 
robbed of plunder and revenge. How came he there ? An 
iron hand had snatched him from the opposing deck — no, 
the Aatrcea had been boarded I The Romans were fighting 
on their own deck ? A chill smote the young Jew : Arrius 
was hard pressed — ^he might be defending his own life. If 
he should be slain 1 God of Abraham f oref end I The hopes 
and dreams so lately come, were they only hopes and 
dreams? Mother ana sister — house — ^home — Holy Land — 
was he not to see them, after all ? The tumult thundered 
above, him ; he looked around ; in the cabin all was con- 



158 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

fusion — the rowers on the benches paralyzed ; men running 
blindly hither and thither ; onlyH-he chief on his seat imper- 
turbable, vainly beating the sounding-board, and waiting 
the orders of the tribune — in the red murk illustrating the 
matchless discipline which had won the world. 

The example had a good effect upon Ben-Hur. He con- 
trolled himself enough to think. Honor and duty bound 
the Roman to the platform ; but what had he to do with 
such motives then ? The bench was a thing to run from ; 
while, if he were to die a slave, who would be the better of 
the sacrifice? With him living was duty, if not honor. 
His life belonged to his people. They arose before him 
never more real : he saw them; their arms outstretched ; he 
heard them imploring him. And he would go to them. He 
started — stopped. Alas! a Roman judgment held him in 
doom. While it endured, escape would be profitless. In 
the wide, wide earth there was no place in which he would 
be safe from the imperial demand ; upon the land none, nor 
upon the sea. Whereas he required freedom according tp 
the forms of law, so only could he abide in Judea and ex- 
ecute the filial purpose to which he would devote himself: 
in other land he would not live. Dear God ! How he had 
waited and watched and prayed for such a release ! And 
how it had been delayed ! But at last he had seen it in the 
promise of the tribune. What else the great man's mean- 
ing ? And if the benefactor so belated should now be slain ! 
The dead come not back to redeem the pledges of the living. 
It should not be — Arrius should not die. At least, better 
perish with him than survive a galley-slave. 

Once more Ben-Hur looked around. Upon the roof of 
the cabin the battle yet beat ; against the sides the hostile 
vessels yet crushed and grided. On the benches, the slaves 
struggled to tear loose from their chains, and, finding their 
efforts vain, howled like madmen ; the guards had gone up- 
stairs ; discipline was out, panic in. No, the chief kept his 
chair, unchanged, calm as ever — except the gavel, weapon- 
less. Vainly with his clangor he filled the lulls in the din. 
Ben-Hur gave him a last look, then broke away — not in 
flight, but to seek the tribune. 

A very short space lay between him and the stairs of the 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 159 

hatchway aft. He took it with a leap, and was half-way 
up the steps — up far enough to catch a glimpse of the sky 
blood-red with fire, of the ships alongside, of the sea cover- 
ed with ships and wrecks, of the fight closed in about the 
pilot's quarter, the assailants many, the defenders few — 
when suddenly his foothold was knocked away, and he 
pitched backward. The floor, when he reached it, seemed 
to be lifting itself and breaking to pieces ; then, in a twin- 
kling, the whole after-part of the hull broke asunder, and, as 
if it had all the time been lying in wait, the sea, hissing 
and foaming, leaped in, and all became darkness and surging 
water to Ben-Hur. 

It cannot be said that the young Jew helped himself in 
this stress. Besides his usual strength, he had the indefi- 
nite extra force which nature keeps in reserve for just such 
perils to life ; yet the darkness, and the whirl and roar of 
water, stupefied him. Even the holding his breath was in- 
voluntary. 

The influx of the flood tossed him like a log forward into 
the cabin, where ho would have drowned but for the reflu- 
ence of the sinking motion. As it was, fathoms under the 
surface the hollow mass vomited him forth, and he arose 
along with the loosed debris. In the act of rising, he clutch- 
ed something, and held to it. The time he was under seem- 
ed an age longer than it really was ; at last he gained the 
top ; with a great gasp he fllled his lurigs afresh, and, toss- 
ing the water from his hair and eyes, climbed higher upon 
the plank he held, and looked about him. 

Death had pursued him closely under the waves; he 
found it waiting for him when he was risen — waiting mul- 
tiform. 

Smoke lay upon the sea like a semitransparent fog, 
through which here and there shone cores of intense brill- 
iance. A quick intelligence told him that they were ships on 
fire. The battle was yet on ; nor could he say who was vic- 
tor. Within the radius of his vision now and then ships 
passed, shooting shadows athwart lights. Out of the dun 
clouds farther on he caught the crash of other ships collid- 
ing. The danger, however, was closer at hand. When the 
Aitroea went down, her deck, it will be recollected, held her 



160 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

own crew, and the crews of the two galleys which had at- 
tacked her at the same time, all of whom were ingulfed. 
Many of them came to the surface together, and on the 
same plank or support of whatever kind continued the 
combat, begun possibly in the vortex fathoms down. Writh- 
ing and twisting in deadly embrace, sometimes striking with 
sword or javelin, they kept the sea around them in agitation, 
at one place inky-black, at another aflame with fiery reflec- 
tions. With their struggles he had nothing to do; they 
were all his enemies : not one of them but would kill him 
for the plank upon which he floated. He made haste to 
get away. 

About that time he heard oars in quickest movement, 
and beheld a galley coming down upon him. The tall prow 
seemed doubly talJ, and the red light playing upon its gilt 
and carving gave it an appearance of snaky life. Under 
its foot the water churned to flying foam. 

He struck out, pushing the plank, which was very broad 
and unmanageable. Seconds were precious — half a second 
might save or lose him. In the crisis of the effort, up from 
the sea, within arm's reach, a helmet shot like a gleam of 
gold. Next came two hands with fingers extended — large 
hands were they, and strong — their hold once fixed, might 
not be loosed. Ben-Hur swerved from them appalled. Up 
rose the helmet and the head it encased — ^then two arms, 
which began to beat the water wildly — the head turned 
back, and gave the face to the light. The mouth gaping 
wide ; the eyes open, but sightless, and the bloodless pallor 
of a drowning man — never anything more ghastly ! Yet 
he gave a cry of joy at the sight, and as the face was going 
under again, he caught the sufferer by the chain which pass- 
ed from the helmet beneath the chin, and drew him to the 
plank. 

The man was Arrius, the tribune. 

For a while the water foamed and eddied violently about 
Ben-Hur, taxing all his strength to hold to the support and 
at the same time keep the Roman's head above the surface. 
The galley had passed, leaving the two barely outside the 
stroke of its oars. Right through the floating men, over 
heads helmeted as well as heads bare, she drove, in her wake 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 161 

nothing but the sea sparkling with fire. A muffled crash, 
succeeded by a great outcry, made the rescuer look again 
from his charge. A certain savage pleasure touched his 
heart — the Astrcea was avenged. 

After that the battle moved on. Resistance turned to 
flight But who were the victors? Ben-Hur was sensible 
how much his freedom and the life of the tribune depended 
upon that event. He pushed the plank under the latter 
until it floated him, after which all his care was to keep 
him there. The dawn came slowly. He watched its grow- 
ing hopefully, yet sometimes afraid. Would it bring the 
Romans or the pirates? If the pirates, his charge was 
lost. 

At last morning broke in full, the air without a breath. 
Off to the left he saw the land, too far to think of attempt- 
ing to make it. Here and there men were adrift like him- 
self. In spots the sea was blackened by charred and some- 
times smoking fragments. A galley up a long way was lying 
to with a torn sail hanging from the tilted yard, and the 
oars all idle. Still farther away he could discern moving 
specks, which he thought might be ships in flight or pur- 
suit, or they might be white birds awing. 

An hour passed thus. His anxiety increased. If relief 
came not speedily, Arrius would die. Sometimes he seem- 
ed already dead, he lay so still. He took the helmet off, 
and then, with greater difficulty, the cuirass; the heart he 
found fluttering. He took hope at the sign, and held on. 
There was nothing to do but wait, and, after the manner of 
his people, pray. 



Chapter VI. 

Thb throes of recovery from drowning are more painful 
than the drowning. These Arrius passed through, and, at 
length, to Ben-Hur*s delight, reached the point of speech. 

Gradually, from incoherent questions as to where he was, 
and by whom and how he had been saved, he reverted to 
the battle. The doubt of the victory stimulated his facul- 
ties to full return, a result aided not a little by a long rest 
11 



162 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

— sach as could be had on their frail support. After a while 
he became talkative. 

" Our rescue, I see, depends upon the result of the fight 
I see also what thou hast done for me. To speak fairly, 
thou hast saved my life at the risk of thy own. I make the 
acknowledgment broadly ; and, whatever cometh, thou hast 
my thanks. More than that, if fortune doth but serve me 
kindly, and we get well out of this peril, I will do thee such 
favor as becometh a Roman who hath power and opportu- 
nity to prove his gratitude. Yet, yet it is to be seen if, with 
thy gooid intent, thou hast really done me a kindness ; or, 
rather, speaking to thy good- will " — ^he hesitated — " I would 
exact of thee a promise to do me, in a certain event, the 
greatest favor one man can do another — and of that let me 
have thy pledge now." 

" If the thmg be not forbidden, I will do it," Ben-Hur 
replied. 

Arrius rested again. 

'^ Art thou, indeed, a son of Hur, the Jew f ' he next asked. 

" It is as I have said." 

" I knew thy father—" 

Judah drew himself nearer, for the tribune's voice was 
weak — he drew nearer, and listened eagerly — at last he 
thought to hear of home. 

" I knew him, and loved him," Arrius continued. 

There was another pause, during which something divert- 
ed the speaker's thought. 

" It cannot be," he proceeded, " that thou, a son of his, 
hast not heard of Cato and Brutus. They were very great 
men, and never as great as in death. In their dying, they 
left this law — A Roman may not survive his good-fortune. 
Art thou listening f ' 

" I hear." 

'^ It is a custom of gentlemen in Rome to wear a ring. 
There is one on my hand. Take it now." 

He held the hand to Judah, who did as he asked. 

" Now put it on thine own hand." 

Ben-Hur did so. 

" The trinket hath its uses," said Arrius next. " I have 
property and money. I am accounted rich even in Borne. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 163 

I have no family. Show the ring to my freedman, who 
hath control in my absence ; you will find him in a villa 
near Misenum. Tell him how it came to thee, and ask any- 
thing, or all he may have ; he will not refuse the demand. 
If I live, I will do better by thee. I will make thee free, 
and restore thee to thy home and people ; or thou mayst 
give thyself to the pursuit that pleaseth thee most. Dost 
thou hear?" 

" I could not choose but hear." 

" Then pledge me. By the gods — " 

" Nay, good tribune, I am a Jew." 

"By thy God, then, or in the form most sacred to those 
of thy faith — pledge me to do what I tell thee now, and as 
I tell thee ; I am waiting, let me have thy promise." 

"Noble Arrius, I am warned by thy manner to expect 
something of gravest concern. Tell me thy wish first." 

" Wilt thou promise then ?" 

"That were to give the pledge, and — Blessed be the 
God of my fathers ! yonder cometh a ship 1" 

" In what djf'ection ?" 

" From the north." 

" Canst thou tell her nationality by outward signs ?" 

" No. My service hath been at the oars." 

" Hath she a flag ?" 

" I cannot see one." 

Arrius remained quiet some time, apparently in deep re- 
flection. 

" Does the ship hold this way yet ?" he at length asked. 

" StUl this way." 

" Look for the flag now." 

" She hath none." 

" Nor any other sign ?" 

" She hath a sail set, and is of three banks, and cometh 
swiftly — that is all I can say of her." 

"A Roman in triumph would have out many flags. She 
must be an enemy. Hear now," said Arrius, becoming 
grave again", " hear, while yet I may speak. If the galley 
bo a pirate, thy life is safe ; they may not give thee free- 
dom ; they may put thee to the oar again ; but they will 
not kill thee. On the other hand, I — " 



164 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

The tribune faltered. 

" Perpol r he continued, resolutely. " I am too old to 
submit to dishonor. In Rome, let them tell how Quintus 
Arrius, as became a Roman tribune, went down with his 
ship in the midst of the foe. This is what I would have 
thee do. If the galley prove a pirate, push me from the 
plank and drown me. Dost thou hear ? Swear, thou wilt 
do it." 

" I will not swear," said Ben-Hur, firmly ; " neither will 
I do the deed. The Law, which is to me most binding, O 
tribune, would make me answerable for thy life. Take 
back the ring " — ^he took the seal from his finger — " take 
it back, and all thy promises of favor in the event of deliv- 
ery from this peril. The judgment which sent me to the 
oar for life made me a slave, yet I am not a slave ; no more 
am I thy freedman. I am a son of Israel, and this mo- 
ment, at least, my own master. Take back the ring." 

Arrius remained passive. 

" Thou wilt not ?" Judah continued. " Not in anger, then, 
nor in any despite, but to free myself from a hateful obli- 
gation, I will give thy gift to the sea. See, O tribune !" 

He tossed the ring away. Arrius heard the splash where 
it struck and sank, though he did not look. 

" Thou hast done a foolish thing," he said ; " foolish for 
one placed as thou art I am not dependent upon thee for 
death. Life is a thread I can break without thy help ; and, 
if I do, what will become of thee? Men determined on 
death prefer it at the hands of others, for the reason that 
the soul which Plato giveth us is rebellious at the thought 
of self-destruction ; that is all. If the ship be a pirate, I 
will escape from the world. My mind is fixed. I am a 
Roman. Success and honor are all in all. Yet I would 
have served thee; thou wouldst not. The ring was the 
only witness of my will available in this situation. We are 
both lost I will die regretting the victory and glory wrest- 
ed from me ; thou wilt live to die a little later, mourning 
the pious duties undone because of this folly. I pity thee." 

Ben-Hur saw the consequences of his act more distinct- 
ly than before, yet he did not falter. 

" In the three years of my servitude, tribune, thou wert 



BEN-HUB: A TALE OF THE CHBIST. i65 

the first to look upon me kindly. No, no ! There was an- 
other." The voice dropped, the eyes became humid, and 
he saw plainly as if it were then before him the face of 
the boy who helped him to a drink by the old well at Naza- 
reth. "At least," he proceeded, "thou wert the first to ask 
me who I was ; and if, when I reached out and caught thee, 
blind and sinking the last time, I, too, had thought of the 
many ways in which thou couldst be useful to me in my 
wretchedness, still the act was not all selfish ; this I pray 
you to believe. Moreover, seeing as God giveth me to now, 
the ends I dream of are to be wrought by fair means alone. 
As a thing of conscience, I would rather die with thee than 
be thy slayer. My mind is firmly set as thine; though 
thou wert to offer me all Rome, O tribune, and it belonged 
to thee to make the gift good, I would not kill thee. Thy 
Cato and Brutus were as little children compared to the 
Hebrew whose law a Jew must obey." 

" But my request. Hast — " 

" Thy command would be of more weight, and that would 
not move me. I have said." 

Both became silent, waiting. 

Ben-Hur looked often at the coming ship. Arrius rested 
with closed eyes, indifferent. 

" Art thou sure she is an enemy I" Ben-Hur asked. 

" I think so," was the reply. 

" She stops, and puts a boat over the side." 

"Dost thou see her flag?" 

" Is there no other sign by which she may be known if 
Roman ?" 

" If Roman, she hath a helmet over the mast's top." 

" Then be of cheer. I see the helmet." 

Still Arrius was not assured. 

"The men in the small boat are taking in the people 
afloat. Pirates are not humane." 

" They may need rowers," Arrius replied, recurring, pos- 
sibly, to times when he had made rescues for the purpose. 

Ben-Hur was very watchful of the actions of the stran- 
gers. 

" The ship moves off," he said. 

"Whither?" 



166 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

" Over on our right there is a galley which I take to be 
deserted. The new-comer heads towards it. Now she is 
alongside. Now she is sending men aboard." 

Then Arrius opened his eyes and threw off his calm. 

" Thank thou thy God," he said to Ben-Hur, after a look 
at the galleys, " thank thou thy God, as I do my many gods. 
A pirate would sink, not save, yon ship. By the act and 
the helmet on the mast I know a Roman, The victory is 
mine. Fortune hath not deserted me. We are saved. 
Wave thy hand — call to them — bring them quickly. I 
shall be duumvir, and thou ! I knew thy father, and loved 
him. He was a prince indeed. He taught me a Jew was 
not a barbarian. I will take thee with me. I will make 
thee my son. Give thy God thanks, and call the sailors. 
Haste ! The pursuit must be kept. Not a robber shall es- 
cape. Hasten them !" 

Judah raised himself upon the plank, and waved his 
hand, and called with all his might; at last he drew the 
attention of the sailors in the small boat, and they were 
speedily taken up. 

Arrius was received on the galley with all the honors due 
a hero so the favorite of Fortune. Upon a couch on the 
deck he heard the particulars of the conclusion of the 
fight. When the survivors afloat upon the water were all 
saved and the prize secured, he spread his flag of command- 
ant anew, and hurried northward to rejoin the fleet and 
perfect the victory. In due time the fifty vessels coming 
down the channel closed in upon the fugitive pirates, and 
crushed them utterly ; not one escaped. To swell the trib- 
une's glory, twenty galleys of the enemy were captured. 

Upon his return from the cruise, Arrius had warm wel- 
come on the mole at Misenum. The young man attending 
him very early attracted the attention of his friends there ; 
and to their questions as to who he was the tribune pro- 
ceeded in the most affectionate manner to tell the story of 
his rescue and introduce the stranger, omitting carefully all 
that pertained .to the latter's previous history. At the end 
of the narrative, he called Ben-Hur to him, and said, with a 
hand resting affectionately upon his shoulder, 

'^ Good friends, this is my son and heir, who, as he is to 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 167 

take my property — if it be the will of the gods that I leave 
any — shall be known to you by my name. I pray you all 
to love him as you love me." 

Speedily as opportunity permitted, the adoption was for- 
mally perfected. And in such manner the brave Roman 
kept his faith with Ben-Hur, giving him happy introduc- 
tion into the imperial world. The month succeeding Ar- 
rius's return, the armilustrium was celebrated with the ut- 
most magnificence in the theatre of Scaurus. One side of 
the structure was taken up with military trophies ; among 
which by far the most conspicuous and most admired were 
twenty prows, complemented by their corresponding aplus- 
tra, cut bodily from as many galleys ; and over them, so as 
to be legible to the eighty thousand spectators in the seats, 
was this inscription : 



Taken 


FROM THE Pirates in the 

BY 


Gulp 


OF 


EURIPUS, 




QUINTUS ARRIUS, 








Duumvir. 









168 BEN-HUB: A TALE OF THE CHBIST. 



BOOK FOURTH. 



" Alva. Should the monarch prove unjust — 

And, at this tune — 

** Queen. Then I must wait for justice 

Until it come ; and they are happiest far 
, Wbofie consciences may calmly wait their right." 

Schiller, Doti Carloa (act ir., sc. zr.). 



Chapter L 

The month to which wo now come is July, the year that 
of our Lord 23, and the place Antioch, then Queen of the 
Easty and next to Borne the strongest, if not the most popu- 
lous, city in the world. 

There is an opinion that the extravagance and dissolute- 
ness of the age had their origin in Rome, and spread thence 
throughout the empire ; that the great cities but reflected 
the manners of their mistress on the Tiber. This may be 
doubted. The reaction of the conquest would seem to have 
been upon the morals of the conqueror. In Greece she 
found a spring of corruption ; so also in Egypt ; and the 
student, having exhausted the subject, will close the books 
assured that the flow of the demoralizing river was from 
the East westwardly, and that this very city of Antioch, one 
of the oldest seats of Assyrian power and splendor, was a 
principal source of the deadly stream. 

A transport galley entered the mouth of the river Oron- 
tes from the blue waters of the sea. It was in the fore- 
noon. The heat was great, yet all on board who could 
avail themselves of the privilege were on deck — Ben-Hur 
among others. 



BEK-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHBIST. 169 

The five years had brought the young Jew to perfect 
manhood. Though the robe of white linen in which he was 
attired somewhat masked his form, his appearance was un- 
usually attractive. For an hour and more he had occupied 
a seat in the shade of the sail, and in that time several fel- 
low-passengers of his own nationality had tried to engage 
him in conversation, but without avail. His replies to their 
questions had been brief, though gravely courteous, and in 
the Latin tongue. The purity of his speech, his cultivated 
manners, his reticence, served to stimulate their curiosity the 
more. Such as observed him closely were struck by an in- 
congruity between his demeanor, which had the ease and 
grace of a patrician, and certain points of his person. Thus 
his arms were disproportionately long ; and when, to steady 
himself against the motion of the vessel, he took hold of 
anything near by, the size of his hands and their evident 
power compelled remark ; so the wonder who and what he 
was mixed continually with a wish to know the particulars 
of his life. In other words, his air cannot be better described 
than as a notice — This man has a story to tell. 

The galley, in coming, had stopped at one of the ports of 
Cyprus, and picked up a Hebrew of most respectable ap- 
pearance, quiet, reserved, paternal. Ben-Hur ventured to 
ask him some questions; the replies won his confidence, 
and resulted finally in an extended conversation. 

It chanced also that as the galley from Cyprus entered 
the receiving bay of the Orontes, two other vessels which 
had been sighted out in the sea met it and passed into the 
river at the same time ; and as they did so both the stran- 
gers threw out small flags of brightest yellow. There was 
much conjecture as to the meaning of the signals. At 
length a passenger addressed himself to the respectable He- 
brew for information upon the subject. 

" Yes, I know the meaning of the flags," he replied ; 
"they do not signify nationality — they are merely marks 
of ownership." 

** Has the owner many ships 3" 

" He has." 

"You know him?" 

"I have dealt with him." 



170 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

The passengers looked at the speaker as if requesting 
him to go on. Ben-Hur listened with interest. 

"He lives in Antioch," the Hebrew continued, in his 
quiet way. "That he is vastly rich has brought him into 
notice, and the talk about him is not always kind. There 
used to be in Jerusalem a prince of very ancient family 
named Hur." 

Judah strove to be composed, yet his heart beat quicker. 

" The prince was a merchant, with a genius for business. 
He set on foot many enterprises, some reaching far East, 
others West In the great cities he had branch houses. The 
one in Antioch was in charge of a man said by some to 
have been a family servant called Simonides, Greek in 
name, yet an Israelite. The master was drowned at sea. 
His business, however, went on, and was scarcely less pros- 
perous. After a while misfortune overtook the family. The 
prince's only son, nearly grown, tried to kill the procurator 
Gratus in one of the streets of Jerusalem. He failed by a 
narrow chance, and has not since been heard of. In fact, 
the Roman's rage took in the whole house — not one of the 
name was left alive. Their palace was sealed up, and is now 
a rookery for pigeons; the estate was confiscated; every- 
thing that could be traced to the ownership of the Hurs 
was confiscated. The procurator cured his hurt with a 
golden salve." 

The passengers laughed. 

" You mean he kept the property," said one of them. 

" They say so," the Hebrew replied ; " I am only telling 
a story as I received it. And, to go on, Simonides, who 
had been the prince's agent here in Antioch, opened trade 
in a short time on his own account, and in a space incredi- 
bly brief became the master merchant of the city. In imi- 
tation of his master, he sent caravans to India ; and on the 
sea at present he has galleys enough to make a royal fleet 
They say nothing goes amiss with him. His camels do not 
die, except of old age ; his ships never founder ; if he throw 
a chip into the river, it will come back to him gold." 

" How long has he been going on thus ?" 

" Not ten years." 

" He must have had a good start." 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 1 7 1 

"Yes, they say the procurator took only the prince's 
property ready at hand — his horses, cattle, houses, land, 
vessels, goods. The money could not be found, though 
there must have been vast sums of it What became of it 
has been an unsolved mystery." 

" Not to me," said a passenger, with a sneer. 

"I understand you," the Hebrew answered. "Others 
have had your idea. That it furnished old Simonides his 
stait is a common belief. The procurator is of that opin- 
ion — or he has been — for twice in five years he has caught 
the merchant, and put him to torture." 

Judah griped the rope he was holding with crushing force. 

" It is said," the narrator continued, " that there is not a 
sound bone in the man's body. The last time I saw him he 
sat in a chair, a shapeless cripple, propped against cushions." 

" So tortured !" exclaimed several listeners in a breath. 

"Disease could not have produced such a deformity. 
Still the suffering made no impression upon him. All he had 
was his lawfully, and he was making lawful use of it — that 
was the most they wrung from him. Now, however, he is 
past persecution. He has a license to trade signed by Ti- 
berius himself." 

" He paid roundly for it, I warrant." 

" These ships are his," the Hebrew continued, passing the 
remark. " It is a custom among his sailors to salute each 
other upon meeting by throwing out yellow flags, sight of 
which is as much as to say, * We have had a fortunate voy- 
age.' " 

The story ended there. 

When the transport was fairly in the channel of the river, 
Judah spoke to the Hebrew. 

" What was the name of the merchant's master ?" 

" Ben-Hur, Prince of Jerusalem." 

" What became of the prince's family ?" 

" The boy was sent to the galleys. I may say he is dead. 
One year is the ordinary limit of life under that sentence. 
The widow and daughter have not been heard of; those 
who know what became of them will not speak. They 
died doubtless in the cells of one of the castles which spot 
the waysides of Judea." 



172 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

Jadah walked to the pilot's quarter. So absorbed was be 
in thought that he scarcely noticed the shores of the river, 
which from sea to city were surpassingly beaatifol with or- 
chards of all the Syrian fraits and vines, clustered abont 
villas rich as those of Neapolis. No more did he observe 
the vessels passing in an endless fleet, nor hear the singing 
and shouting of the sailors, some in labor, some in merri- 
ment. The sky was full of sunlight, lying in hazy warmth 
upon the land and the water ; nowhere except over his life 
was there a shadow. 

Once only he awoke to a momentary interest, and that 
was when some one pointed out the Grove of Daphne, dis- 
cernible from a bend in the river. 



Chapter IL 

When the city came into view, the passengers were on 
deck, eager that nothing of the scene might escape them. 
The respectable Jew already introduced to the reader was 
the principal spokesman. 

" The river here runs to the west," he said, in the way of 
general answer. " I remember when it washed the base of 
the walls ; but as Roman subjects we have lived in peace, 
and, as always happens in such times, trade has had its wiU ; 
now the whole river front is taken up with wharves and 
docks. Yonder" — the speaker pointed southward — "is 
Mount Casius, or, as these people love to call it, the Moun- 
tains of Orontes, looking across to its brother Aranus in the 
north ; and between them lies the Plain of Antioch. Far- 
ther on are the Black Mountains, whence the Ducts of the 
Kings bring the purest water to wash the thirsty streets and 
people ; yet they are forests in wilderness state, dense, and 
full of birds and beasts." 

" Where is the lake ?" one asked. 

" Over north there. You can take horse, if you wish to 
see it — or, better, a boat, for a tributary connects it with the 
river." 

"The Grove of Daphne!" he said, to a third inquirer. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 173 

" Nobody can describe it ; only beware I It was begun by 
Apollo, and completed by hira. He prefers it to Olympus. 
People go there for one look — just oue — and never come 
away. They have a saying which tells it all — * Better be a 
worm and feed on the mulberries of Daphne than a king's 
guest.' " 

" Then you advise me to stay away from it ?" 

" Not I ! Go you will. Everybody goes, cynic philoso- 
pher, virile boy, women, and priests — all go. So sure am I 
of what you will do that I assume to advise you. Do not 
take quarters in the city — that will be loss of time ; but go 
at once to the village in the edge of the grove. The way 
is through a garden, under the spray of fountains. The 
lovers of the god and his Penaean maid built the town ; and 
in its porticos and paths and thousand retreats you will 
find characters and habits and sweets and kinds elsewhere 
impossible. But the wall of the city ! there it is, the mas- 
terpiece of Xeraeus, the master of mural architecture." 

All eyes followed his pointing finger. 

" This part was raised by order of the first of the Seleu- 
cidae. Three hundred years have made it part of the rock 
it rests upon." 

The defence justified the encomium. High, solid, and 
with many bold angles, it curved southwardly out of view. 

" On the top there are four hundred towers, each a res- 
ervoir of water," the Hebrew continued. "Look now! 
Over the wall, tall as it is, see in the distance two hills, 
which you may know as the rival crests of Sulpius. The 
structure on the farthest one is the citadel, garrisoned all 
the year round by a Roman legion. Opposite it this way 
rises the Temple of Jupiter, and under that the front of the 
legate's residence — ^a palace full of offices, and yet a fortress 
against which a mob would dash harmlessly as a south 
wind." 

At this point the sailors began taking in sail, whereupon 
the Hebrew exclaimed, heartily, " See I you who hate the 
sea, and you who have vows, get ready your curses and your 
prayers. The bridge yonder, over which the road to Seleu- 
cia is carried, marks the limit of navigation. What the 
ship unloads for further transit, the camel takes up there. 



174 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

Above the bridge begins the island upon* which Calinicus 
built his new city, connecting it with five great viaducts so 
solid time has made no impression upon them, nor floods 
nor earthquakes. Of the main town, my friends, I have 
only to say you will be happier all your lives for having 
seen it." 

As he concluded, the ship turned and made slowly for 
her wharf under the wall, bringing even more fairiy to view 
the life with which the river at that point was possessed. 
Finally, the lines were thrown, the oars shipped, and the 
voyage was done. Then Ben-Hur sought the respectable 
Hebrew. 

" Let me trouble you a moment before saying farewell." 

The man bowed assent. 

" Your story of the merchant has made me curious to see 
him. You called him Siraonides ?" 

" Yes. He is a Jew with a Greek name." 

" Where is he to be found ?" 

The acquaintance gave a sharp look before he answered, 

"I may save you mortification. He is not a money- 
lender." 

" Nor am I a money-borrower," said Ben-Hur, smiling at 
the other's shrewdness. 

The man raised his head and considered an instant. 

" One would think," he then replied, " that the richest 
merchant in Antioch would have a house for business cor- 
responding to his wealth ; but if you would find him in the 
day, follow the river to yon bridge, under which he quarters 
in a building that looks like a buttress of the wall. Before 
the door there is an immense landing, always covered with 
cargoes come and to go. The fleet that lies moored there 
is his. You cannot fail to find him." 

" I give you thanks." 

" The peace of our fathers go with you." 

" And with you." 

With that they separated. 

Two street-porters, loaded with his baggage, received 
Ben-Hur's orders upon the wharf. 

" To the citadel," he said ; a direction which implied an 
oflScial military connection. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 175 

Two great streets, cutting each other at right angles, di- 
vided the city into quarters. A curious and immense struct- 
ure, called the Nymphaeum, arose at the foot of the one 
running north and south. When the porters turned south 
there, the new-comer, though fresh from Rome, was amazed 
at the magnificence of the avenue. On the right and left 
there were palaces, and between them extended indefinitely 
double colonnades of marble, leaving separate ways for foot- 
men, beasts, and chariots ; the whole under shade, and cool- 
ed by fountains of incessant flow. 

Ben-Hur was not in mood to enjoy the spectacle. The 
story of Siraonides haunted him. Arrived at the Ompha- 
lus — a monument of four arches wide as the streets, superb- 
ly illustrated, and erected to himself by Epiphanes, the 
eighth of the Seleucidae — he suddenly changed his mind. 

" I will not go to the citadel to-night," he said to the por- 
ters. "Take me to the khan nearest the bridge on the 
road to Seleucia." 

The party faced about, and in good time he was deposit- 
ed in a public house of primitive but ample construction, 
within stone's-throw of the bridge under which old Simoni- 
des had his quarters. He lay upon the house-top through 
the night. In his inner mind lived the thought, " Now — 
now I will hear of home — and mother — and the dear little 
Tirzah. If they are on earth, I will find them." 



Chapter III. 

Nbxt day early, to the neglect of the city, Ben-Hur sought 
the house of Simonides. Through an embattled gateway 
he passed to a continuity of wharves; thence up the river 
midst a busy press, to the Seleucian Bridge, under which 
he paused to take in the scene. 

There, directly under the bridge, was the merchant's house, 
a mass of gray stone, unhewn, referrible to no style, looking, 
as the voyager had described it, like a buttress of the wall 
against which it leaned. Two immense doors in front com- 
mouicated wi^h the wharf. Some holes near the top, heav- 



176 BEN-HUB: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

ily barred, served as windows. Weeds waved from the crev- 
ices, and in places black moss splotched the otherwise bald 
stones. 

The doors were open. Through one of them business 
went in ; through the other it came out ; and there was 
hurry, hurry in all its movements. 

On the wharf there were piles of goods in every kind of 
package, and groups of slaves, stripped to the waist, going 
about in the abandon of labor. 

Below the bridge lay a fleet of galleys, some loading, 
others unloading. A yellow flag blew out from each mast- 
head. From fleet and wharf, and from ship to ship, the 
bondmen of traffic passed in clamorous counter-currents. 

Above the bridge, across the river, a waU rose from the 
water's edge, over which towered the fanciful cornices and 
turrets of an imperial palace, covering every foot of the isl- 
and spoken of in the Hebrew's description. But, with all 
its suggestions, Ben-Hur scarcely noticed it. Now, at last, 
he thought to hear of his people — this, certainly, if Simoni- 
des had indeed been his father's slave. But would the man 
acknowledge the relation? That would be to give up his 
riches and the sovereignty of trade so royally witness^ on 
the wharf and river. And what was of still greater conse- 
quence to the merchant, it would be to forego his career in 
the midst of amazing success, and yield himself voluntarily 
once more a slave. Simple thought of the demand seemea 
a monstrous audacity. Stripped of diplomatic address, it was 
to say, You are my slave ; give me all you have, and — ^your- 
self. 

Yet Ben-Hur derived strength for the interview from faith 
in his rights and the hope uppermost in his heart. If the 
story to which he was yielding were true, Simonides be- 
longed to him, with all he had. For the wealth, be it said 
in justice, he cared nothing. When he started to the door 
determined in mind, it was with a promise to himself — 
'* Let him tell me of mother and Tirzah, and I will give him 
his freedom without account." 

He passed boldly into the house. 

The interior was that of a vast depot where, in ordered 
spaces, and under careful arrangement, goods of every kind 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 177 

were heaped and pent. Tbongh the light was murky and 
the air stifling, men moved aboat briskly ; and in places he 
saw workmen with saws and hammers making packages for 
shipments. Down a path between the piles he walked slow- 
ly, wondering if the man of whose genius there were here 
such abounding proofs could hrive been his father's slave? 
If so, to what class had he belonged ? If a Jew, was he the 
son of a servant? Or was he a debtor or a debtor's son ? 
Or had he been sentenced and sold for theft? These 
thoughts, as they passed, in nowise disturbed the growing 
respect for the merchant of which he was each instant more 
and more conscious. A peculiarity of our admiration for 
another is that it b always looking for circumstances to 
justify itself. 

At length a man approached and spoke to him. 

" What would you have ?" 

" I would see Siraonides, the merchant." 

" Will you come this way ?" 

By a number of paths left in the stowage, they finally 
came to a flight of steps ; ascending which, he found him- 
self on the roof of the depot, and in front of a structure 
which cannot be better described than as a lesser stone 
house built upon another, invisible from the landing below, 
and out west of the bridge under the open sky. The roof, 
hemmed in by a low wall, seemed like a terrace, which, to 
his astonishment, was brilliant with flowers; in the rich sur- 
rounding, the house sat squat, a plain square block, unbroken 
except by a doorway in front. A dustless path led to the 
door, through a bordering of shrubs of Persian rose in per- 
fect bloom. Breathing a sweet attar-perfume, he followed 
the guide. 

At the end of a darkened passage within, they stopped 
before a curtain half parted. The man called out, 

"A stranger to see the master." 

A clear voice replied, " In God's name, let him enter." 

A Roman might have called the apartment into which 
the visitor was ushered his atrium. The walls were pan- 
elled ; each panel was comparted like a modem office-desk, 
and each compartment crowded with labelled folios all file- 
mot with age and use. Between the panels, and above and 
12 



178 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

below them, were borders of wood once white, now tinted 
like cream, and carved with marvellous intricacy of design. 
Above a cornice of gilded balls, the ceiling rose in pavilion 
style until it broke into a shallow dome set with hundreds 
of panes of violet mica, permitting a flood of light delicious- 
ly reposeful. The floor was carpeted with gray rugs so 
thick that an invading foot fell half buried and soundless. 

In the midlight of the room were two persons — a man 
resting in a chair high-backed, broad-armed, and lined with 
pliant cushions ; and at his left, leaning against the back of 
the chair, a girl well forward into womanhood. At sight 
of them Ben-Hur felt the blood redden his forehead ; bow- 
ing, as much to recover himself as in respect, he lost the 
lifting of the hands, and the shiver and shrink with which 
the sitter caught sight of him — an emotion as swift to go 
as it had been to come. When he raised his eyes the two 
were in the same position, except the girl's hand had fallen 
and was resting lightly upon the elder's shoulder ; both of 
them were regarding him fixedly. 

"If you are Simonides, the merchant, and a Jew" — ^Ben- 
Hur stopped an instant—" then the peace of the God of 
our father Abraham upon you and — yours." 

The last word was addressed to the girl. 

" I am the Simonides of whom you speak, by birthright 
a Jew," the man made answer, in a voice singularly clear. 
"I am Simonides, and a Jew; and I return you your salu- 
tation, with prayer to know who calls upon me." 

Ben-Har looked as he listened, and where the figure of 
the man should have been in healthful roundness, there was 
only a formless heap sunk in the depths pf the cushions, 
and covered by a quilted robe of sombre silk. Over the 
heap shone a head royally proportioned — the ideal head of 
a statesman and conqueror — a head broad of base and dome- 
like in front, such as Angelo would have modelled for Csesar. 
White hair dropped in thin locks over the white brows, 
deepening the blackness of the eyes shining through them 
like sullen lights. The face was bloodless, and much puffed 
with folds, especially under the chin. In other words, the 
head and face were those of a man who might move the 
world more readily than the world could move him — ^a man 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 179 

to be twice twelve times tortured into the shapeless cripple 
he was, without a groan, much less a confession ; a man to 
yield his life, but never a purpose or a point ; a man bom 
in armor, and assailable only through his loves. To him 
Ben-Hur stretched his hands, open and palm up, as he would 
offer peace at the same time he asked it. 

'* I am Judah, son of Ithamar, late head of the House of 
Hur, and a prince of Jerusalem.^' 

The merchant's right hand lay outside the robe — a long, 
thin hand, articulate to deformity with suffering. It closed 
tightly ; otherwise there was not the slightest expression of 
feeling of any kind on his part ; nothing to warrant an in- 
ference of surprise or interest ; nothing but this calm an- 
swer, 

" The princes of Jerusalem, of the pure blood, are always 
welcome in my house ; you are welcome. Give the young 
man a seat, Esther.'' 

The girl took an ottoman near by, and carried it to Ben- 
Hur. As she arose from placing the seat, their eyes met. 

" The peace of our Lord with you/' she said, modestly. 
" Be seated and at rest." 

When she resumed her place by the chair, she had not 
divined his purpose. The powers of woman go not so far : 
if the matter is of finer feeling, such as pity, mercy, sympa- 
thy, that she detects; and therein is a difference between 
her and man which will endure as long as she remains, by 
nature, alive to such feelings. She was simply sure he 
brought some wound of life for healing. 

Ben-Hur did not take the offered seat, but said, deferen- 
tially, " I pray the good master Simonides that he will not 
hold me an intruder. Coming up the river yesterday, I 
heard he knew my father." 

" I knew the Prince Hur. We were associated in some 
enterprises lawful to merchants who find profit in lands be- 
yond the sea and the desert But sit, I pray you — ^and, 
Esther, some wine for the young man. Nehemiah speaks 
of a son of Hur who once ruled the half part of Jerusalem ; 
an old house ; very old, by the faith ! In the days of Moses 
and Joshua even some of them found favor in the sight 
of the Lord, and divided honors with those princes among 



180 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

men. It can hardly be that their descendant, lineally come 
to us, will refuse a cup of wine-fat of the genuine vine of 
Sorek, grown on the south hill-sides of Hebron." 

By the time of the conclusion of this speech, Esther was 
before Ben-Hur with a silver cup filled from a vase upon a 
table a little removed from the chair. She offered the drink 
with downcast face. He touched her hand gently to put it 
away. Again their eyes met ; whereat he noticed that she 
was small, not nearly to his shoulder in height ; but very 
graceful, and fair and sweet of face, with eyes black and in- 
expressibly soft. She is kind and pretty, he thought, and 
looks as Tirzah would were she living. Poor Tirzah ! Then 
he said aloud, 

" No, thy father — if he is thy father ?" — he paused. 

" I am Esther, the daughter of Simonides," she said, with 
dignity. . 

"Then, fair Esther, thy father, when he has heard my 
further speech, will not think worse of me if yet I am slow 
to take his wine of famous extract ; nor less I hope not to 
lose grace in thy sight. Stand thou here with me a mo- 
ment !" 

Both of them, as in common cause, turned to the mer- 
chant. ** Simonides I" he said, finnly, " my father, at his 
death, had a trusted servant of thy name, and it has been 
told me that thou art the man !" 

There was a sudden start of the wrenched limbs under 
the robe, and the thin hand clenched. 

"Esther, Esther!" the man called, sternly; "here, not 
there, as thou art thy mother's child and mine — here, not 
there, I say !" 

The girl looked once from father to visitor ; then she re- 
placed the cup upon the table, and went dutifully to the 
chair. Her countenance sufficiently expressed her wonder 
and alarm. 

Simonides lifted his left hand, and gave it into hers, ly- 
ing lovingly upon his shoulder, and said, dispassionately, " I 
have grown old in dealing with men — old before my time. 
If he who told thee that whereof thou speakest was a friend 
acquainted with my history, and spoke of it not harshly, he 
must have persuaded thee that I could not be else than a 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 181 

man distrustful of my kind. The God of Israel help him 
who, at the end of life, is constrained to acknowledge so 
much I My loves are few, but they are. One of them is a 
soul which " — he carried the hand holding his to his lips, in 
manner unmistakable — " a soul which to this time has been 
unselfishly mine, and such sweet comfort that, were it taken 
from me, I would die." 

Esther's head drooped until her cheek touched his. 

" The other love is but a memory ; of which I will say 
further that, like a benison of the Lord, it hath a compass to 
contain a whole family, if only" — his voice lowered and 
trembled — " if only I knew where they were." 

Ben-Hur's face suffused, and, advancing a step, he cried^ 
impulsively, " My mother and sister ! Oh, it is of them you 
speak !" 

Esther, as if spoken to, raised her head ; but Simonides 
returned to his calm, and answered, coldly, " Hear me to the 
end. Because I am that I am, and because of the loves of 
.which I have spoken, before I make return to thy demand 
touching my relations to the Prince Hur, and as something 
which of right should come first, do thou show me proofs of 
who thou art. Is thy witness in writing ? Or cometh it in 
person ?" 

The demand was plain, and the right of it indisputable. 
Ben-Hur blushed, clasped his hands, stammered, and turned 
away at loss. Simonides pressed him. 

" The proofs, the proofs, I say ! Set them before me — 
lay them in my hands !" 

Yet Ben-Hur had no answer. He had not anticipated the 
requirement ; and, now that it was made, to him as never 
before came the awful fact that the three years in the gal- 
ley had carried away all the proofs of his identity ; mother 
and sister gone, he did not live in the knowledge of any hu- 
man being. Many there were acquainted with him, but 
that was all. Had Quintus Arrius been present, what could 
he have said more than where he found him, and that he 
believed the pretender to be the son of Hur ? But, as will pres- 
ently appear in full, the brave Roman sailor was dead. Ju- 
dah had felt the loneliness before ; to the core of life the 
sense struck him now. He stood, hands clasped, face avert- 



182 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

ed, in stupefaction. Simonidcs respected his sufEering, and 
waited in silence. 

" Master Simonides,'' he said, at length, " I can only tell 
my story ; and I will not that nnless you stay judgment so 
long, and with good-will deign to hear me/' 

*' Speak," said Simonides, now, indeed, master of the situ- 
ation — " speak, and I will listen the more willingly that I 
have not denied you to be the very person you claim your- 
self." 

Ben-Hur proceeded then, and told his life hurriedly, yet 
with the feeling which is the source of all eloquence ; but 
as we are familiar with it down to his landing at Misenum, 
in company with Arrius, returned victorious from the 
^gean, at that point we will take up the words. 

" My benefactor was loved and trusted by the emperor, 
who heaped him with honorable rewards. The merchants 
of the East contributed magnificent presents, and he became 
doubly rich among the rich of Rome. May a Jew forget 
his religion? or his birthplace, if it were the Holy Land of. 
our fathers ? The good man adopted me his son by formal 
rites of law ; imd I strove to make him just return : no child 
was ever more dutiful to father than I to him. He would 
have had me a scholar ; in art, philosophy, rhetoric, oratory, 
he would have furnished me the most famous teacher. I 
declined his insistence, because I was a Jew, and could not 
forget the Lord God, or the glory of the prophets, or the 
city set on the hills by David and Solomon. Oh, ask you 
why I accepted any of the benefactions of the Roman ? I 
loved him ; next place, I thought I could, with his help, ar- 
ray influences which would enable me one day to unseal the 
mystery close-locking the fate of my mother and sister ; 
and to these there was yet another motive of which I shall 
not speak except to say it controlled me so far that I devoted 
myself to arms, and the acquisition of everything deemed 
essential to thorough knowledge of the art of war. Li the 
palasstrsd and circuses of the city I toiled, and in the camps 
no less ; and in all of them I have a name, but not that of 
my fathers. The crowns I won — and on the walls of the 
viUa by Misenum there are many of them — all came to me 
as the son of Arrius, the duumvir. In that relation only 



BEX-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 183 

am I known among Romans. ... In steadfast pursuit of 
my secret aim, I left Rome for Antioch, intending to accom- 
pany the Consul Maxentius in the campaign he is organizing 
against the Parthians. Master of personal skill in all arms, 
I seek now the higher knowledge pertaining to the conduct 
of bodies of men in the field. The consul has admitted me 
one of his military family. But yesterday, as our ship en- 
tered the Orontes, two other ships sailed in with us flying 
yeUow flags. A fellow-passenger and countryman from 
Cyprus explained that the vessels belonged to Simonides, 
the master-merchant of Antioch ; he told us, also, who the 
merchant was ; his marvellous success in commerce ; of his 
fleets and caravans, and their coming and going ; and, not 
knowing I had interest in the theme beyond my associate 
listeners, he said Simonides was a Jew, once the servant of 
the Prince Hur ; nor did he conceal the cruelties of Gratus, 
or the purpose of their infliction." 

At this allusion Simonides bowed his head, and, as if to 
help him conceal his feelings and her own deep sympathy, 
the daughter hid her face on his neck. Directly he raised 
his eyes, and said, in a clear voice, " I am listening." 

" O good Simonides !" Ben-Hur then said, advancing a 
step, his whole soul seeking expression, " I see thou art not 
convinced, and that yet I stand in the shadow of thy dis- 
trust." » 

The merchant held his features fixed as marble, and his 
tongue as still. 

** And not less clearly I see the difficulties of my position," 
Ben-Hur continued. " All my Roman connection I can prove ; 
I have only to call upon the consul, now the guest of the gov- 
ernor of the city; but I cannot prove the particulars of thy de- 
mand upon me. I cannot prove I am my father's son. They 
who could serve me in that — alas ! they are dead or lost." 

He covered his face with his hands ; whereupon Esther 
arose, and, taking the rejected cup to him, said, " The wine 
is of the country we all so love. Drink, I pray thee !" 

The Voice was sweet as that of Rebekah offering drink at 
the well near Nahor the city ; he saw there were tears in her 
eyes, and he drank, saying, " Daughter of Simonides, thy 
heart is full of goodness ; and merciful art thou to let the 



184 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

stranger share it with thy father. Be thou blessed of our 
God ! I thank thee." 

Then he addressed himself to the merchant again : 

" As I have no proof that I am my father's son, I will 
withdraw that I demanded of thee, O Simonides, and go 
hence to trouble you no more ; only let me say I did not 
seek thy return to servitude nor account of thy fortune ; in 
any event, I would have said, as now I say, that all which is 
product of thy labor and genius is thine ; keep it in wel- 
come. I have no need of any part thereof. When the 
good Quintus, my second father, sailed on the voyage which 
was his last, he left me his heir, princely rich. If, there- 
fore, thou dost think of me again, be it with remembrance 
of this question, which, as I do swear by the prophets and 
Jehovah, thy God and mine, was the chief purpose of my com- 
ing here : What dost thou know — what canst thou tell me — 
of my mother and Tirzah, my sister — she who should be in 
beauty and grace even as this one, thy sweetness of life, if 
not thy very life ? Oh ! what canst thou tell me of them ?" 

The tears ran down Esther's cheeks; but the man was 
wilful : in a clear voice, he replied, 

" I have said I knew the Prince Ben-Hur. I remember 
hearing of the misfortune which overtook his family. I re- 
member the bitterness with which I heard it. He who 
wrought such misery to the widow of my friend is the same 
who, in the same spirit, hath since wrought upon me. I will 
go further, and say to you, I have made diligent quest con- 
cerning the family, but— -I have nothing to tell you of them. 
They are lost." 

Ben-Hur uttered a great groan. 

" Then — ^then it is another hope broken !" he said, strug- 
gling with his feelings. '^I am used to disappointments. 
I pray you pardon my intrusion ; and if I have occasioned 
you annoyance, forgive it because of my sorrow. I have 
nothing now to live for but vengeance. Farewell." 

At the curtain he turned, and said, simply, " I thank you 
both." 

" Peace go with you," the merchant said. 

Esther could not speak for sobbing. 

And so he departed. 



BENHUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 185 



Chapter IV. 

Scarcely was Ben-Hur gone, when Siraonides seemed to 
wake as from sleep : his countenance flushed ; the sullen 
light of his eyes changed to brightness; and he said, cheerily, 

" Esther, ring — quick !" 

She went to the table, and rang a service-bell. 

One of the panels in the wall swung back, exposing a 
doorway which gave admittance to a man who passed round 
to the merchant's front, and saluted him with a half-sa- 
laam. 

" Malluch, here — nearer — to the chair," the master said, 
imperiously. " I have a mission which shall not fail though 
the sun should. Hearken ! A young man is now descend- 
ing to the store-room — tall, comely, and in the garb of Is- 
rael ; follow him, his shadow not more faithful ; and every 
night send me report of where he is, what he does, and the 
company he keeps ; and if, without discovery, you overhear 
his conversations, report them word for word, together with 
whatever will serve to expose him, his habits, motives, life. 
Understand you ? Go quickly ! Stay, Malluch : if he leave 
the city, go after him — and, mark you, Malluch, be as a 
friend. If he bespeak you, tell him what you will to the 
occasion most suited, except that you are in my service; 
of that, not a word. Haste — make haste !" 

The man saluted as before, and was gone. 

Then Simonides rubbed his wan hands together, and 
laughed. 

" What is the day, daughter ?" he said, in the midst of 
the mood. " What is the day ? I wish to remember it for 
happiness come. See, and look for it laughing, and laugh 
ing tell me, Esther." 

The merriment seemed unnatural to her; and, as if to 
entreat him from it, she answered, sorrowfully, " Woe 's me, 
father, that I should ever forget this day !" 

His hands fell down the instant, and his chin, dropping 



186 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

upon his breast, lost itself in the muffling folds of flesh 
composing his lower face. 

" True, most true, my daughter !" he said, without look- 
ing up. " This is the twentieth day of the fourth month. 
To-day five years ago, my Rachel, thy mother, feU down 
and died. They brought me home broken as thou seest 
me, and we found her dead of grief. Oh, to me she was a 
cluster of camphire in the vineyards of En-gedi ! I have gath- 
ered my myrrh with my spice. I have eaten my honeycomb 
with ray honey. We laid her away in a lonely place — in 
a tomb cut in the mountain ; no one near her. Yet in the 
darkness she left me a little light, which the years have in- 
creased to a brightness of morning." He raised his hand 
and rested it upon his daughter's head. " Dear Lord, I thank 
thee that now in my Esther my lost Rachel liveth again !" 

Directly he lifted his head, and said, as with a sudden 
thought, " Is it not clear day outside ?" 

" It was, when the young man came in." 

"Then let Abimelech come and take me to the garden, 
where I can see the river and the ships, and I will tell thee, 
dear Esther, why but now my mouth filled with laughter, 
and my tongue with singing, and my spirit was like to a 
roe or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices." 

In answer to the bell a servant came, and at her bidding 
pushed the chair, set on little wheels for the purpose, out 
of the room to the roof of the lower house, called by him his 
garden. Out through the roses, and by beds of lesser flow- 
ers, all triumphs of careful attendance, but now unnoticed, 
he was rolled to a position from which he could view the 
palace-tops over against him on the island, the bridge in 
lessening perspective to the farther shore, and the river be- 
low the bridge crowded with vessels, all swimming amidst 
the dancing splendors of the early sun upon the rippling 
water. There the servant left him with Esther. 

The much shouting of laborers, and their beating and 
pounding, did not disturb him any more than the tramping oi 
people on the bridge-floor almost overhead, being as familiar 
to his ear as the view before him to his eye, and therefore 
unnoticeable, except as suggestions of profits in promise. 

Esther sat on the arm of the chair nursing his hand, and 



BENHUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 187 

waiting his speech, which came at length in the cahn way, 
the mighty will having carried him back to himself. 

" When the young man was speaking, Esther^ I observed 
thee, and thought thou wert won by him." 

Her eyes fell as she replied, 

" Speak you of faith, father, I believed hira." 

" In thy eyes, then, he is the lost son of the Prince Hur?" 

" If he is not — " She hesitated. 

" And if he is not, Esther ?" 

" I have been thy handmaiden, father, since my mother 
answered the call of the Lord God; by thy side I have 
heard and seen thee deal in wise ways with all manner of 
men seeking profit, holy and unholy; and now I say, if 
indeed the young man be not the prince he claims to be, 
then before me falsehood never played so well the part of 
righteous truth." 

" By the glory of Solomon, daughter, thou speakest ear- 
nestly. Dost thou believe thy father his father's servant ?" 

** I understood him to ask of that as something he had 
but heard." 

For a time Simonides' gaze swam among his swimming 
ships, though they had no place in his mind. 

" Well, thou art a good child, Esther, of genuine Jewish 
shrewdness, and of years and strength to hear a sorrowful 
tale. Wherefore give me heed, and I will tell you of my- 
self, and of thy mother, and of many things pertaining to 
the past not in thy knowledge or thy dreams — things with- 
held from the persecuting Roman for a hope's sake, and 
from thee that thy nature should grow towards the Lord 
straight as the reed to the sun. ... I was born in a tomb in 
the valley of Hinnom, on the south side of Zion. My father 
and mother were Hebrew bond-servants, tenders of the ^g 
and olive trees growing, with many vines, in the King's Gar- 
den hard by Siloam ; and in my boyhood I helped them. 
They were of the class bound to serve forever. They sold 
me to the Prince Hur, then, next to Herod the King, the 
richest man in Jerusalem. From the garden he transferred 
me to his storehouse in Alexandria of Egypt, where I came 
of age. I served him six years, and in the sevenlh, by the 
law of Moses, I went free." 



188 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHBIST. 

Esther clapped her hands lightly. 

" Oh, then, thou art not his father's servant !" 

" Nay, daughter, hear. Now, in those days there were 
lawyers in the cloisters of the Temple who disputed vehe- 
mently, saying the children of servants bound forever took 
the condition of their parents; but the Prince Hur was a 
man righteous in all things, and an interpreter of the law 
after the straitest sect, though not of them. He said I 
was a Hebrew servant bought, in the true meaning of the 
great lawgiver, and, by sealed writings, which I yet have, 
he set me free." 

" And my mother ?" Esther asked. 

" Thou shalt hear all, Esther ; be patient. Before I am 
through thou shalt see it were easier for me to forget my- 
self than thy mother. ... At the end of my service, I came 
up to Jerusalem to the Passover. My master entertained 
me. I was in love with him already, and I prayed to be 
continued in his service. He consented, and I served him 
yet another seven years, but as a hired son of Israel. In 
his behalf I had charge of ventures on the sea by ships, and 
of ventures on land by caravans eastward to Susa and Per- 
sepolis, and the lands of silk beyond them. Perilous pas- 
sages were they, my daughter; but the Lord blessed all I 
undertook. I brought home vast gains for the prince, and 
richer knowledge for myself, without which I could not 
have mastered the charges since fallen to me. . . . One day 
I was a guest in his house in Jerusalem. A servant entered 
with some sliced bread on a platter. She came to me first. 
It was then I saw thy mother, and loved her, and took her 
away in my secret heart. After a while a time came when I 
sought the prince to make her my wife. He told me she 
was bond-servant forever; but if she wished, he would set her 
free that I might be gratified. She gave me love for love, 
but was happy where she was, and refused her freedom. I 
prayed and besought, going again and again after long inter- 
vals. She would be my wife, she all the time said, if I would 
become her fellow in servitude. Our father Jacob served yet 
other seven years for his Rachel. Could I not as much for 
mine ? But thy mother said I must become as she, to serve for- 
ever. I came away, but went back. Look, Esther, look here." 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 189 

He pulled out the lobe of his left ear. 

" See you not the scar of the awl ?" 

" I see it," she said ; " and, oh, I see how thou didst love 
my mother 1" 

" Love her, Esther ! She was to me more than the Shu- 
lamite to the singing king, fairer, more spotless ; a fountain 
of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Leb- 
anon. The master, even as I required him, took me to the 
judges, and back to his door, and thrust the awl through 
my ear into the door, and I was his servant forever. So I 
won my Rachel. And was ever love like mine?" 

Esther stooped and kissed him, and they were silent, 
thinking of the dead. 

"My master was drowned at sea, the first sorrow that 
ever fell upon me," the merchant continued. " There was 
mourning in his house, and in mine here in Antioch, my 
abiding-place at the time. Now, Esther, mark you ! When 
the good prince was lost, I had risen to be his chief steward, 
with everything of property belonging to him in my man- 
agement and control. Judge you how much he loved and 
trusted me ! I hastened to Jerusalem to render account to 
the widow. She continued me in the stewardship. I applied 
myself with greater diligence. The business prospered, and 
grew year by year. Ten years passed ; then came the blow 
which you heard the young man tell about — the accident, 
as he called it, to the Procurator Gratus. The Roman gave 
it out an attempt to assassinate him. Under that pretext, 
by leave from Rome, he confiscated to his own use the im- 
mense fortune of the widow and children. Nor stopped he 
there. That there might be no reversal of the judgment, 
he removed all the parties interested. From that dreadful 
day to this the family of Hur have been lost. The son, 
whom I had seen as a child, was sentenced to the galleys. 
The widow and daughter are supposed to have been buried 
in some of the many dungeons of Judea, which, once closed 
upon the doomed, are like sepulchres sealed and locked. 
They passed from the knowledge of men as utterly as if 
the sea had swallowed them unseen. We could not hear 
how they died — nay, not even that they were dead." 

Esther's eyes were dewy with tears. 



190 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

" Thy heart is good, Esther, good as thy mother's was ; 
and I pray it have not the fate of most good hearts — to be 
trampled upon by the unmerciful and blind. But hearken 
further. I went up to Jerusalem to give help to my bene- 
factress, and was seized at the gate of the city and carried 
to the sunken cells of the Tower of Antonia ; why, I knew 
not, until Gratus himself came and demanded of me the 
moneys of the House of Hur, which he knew, after our Jew- 
ish custom of exchange, were subject to my draft in the dif- 
ferent marts of the world. He required me to sign to his 
order. I refused. He had the houses, lands, goods, ships, 
and movable property of those I served ; he had not their 
moneys. I saw, if I kept favor in the sight of the Lord, I 
could rebuild their broken fortunes. I refused the tyrant's 
demands. He put me to torture ; my will held good, and 
he set me free, nothing gained. I came home and began 
again, in the name of Simonides of Antioch, instead of the 
Prince Hur of Jerusalem. Thou knowest, Esther, how I 
have prospered; that the increase of the millions of the 
prince in my hands was miraculous ; thou knowest how, at 
the end of three years, while going up to CsBsarea, I was 
taken and a second time tortured by Gratus to compel a 
confession that my goods and moneys were subject to his 
order of confiscation; thou knowest he failed as before. 
Broken in body, I came home and found my Rachel dead 
of fear and grief for me. The Lord our God reigned, and I 
lived. From the emperor himself I bought immunity and li- 
cense to trade throughout the world. To-day — praised be 
He who maketh the clouds his chariot and walketh upon the 
winds ! — to-day, Esther, that which was in my hands for stew- 
ardship is multiplied into talents suflBcient to enrich a Caesar." 

He lifted his head proudly; their eyes met; each read 
the other's thought. " What shall I with the treasure, Es- 
ther ?" he asked, without lowering his gaze. 

" My father," she answered, in a low voice, " did not the 
rightful owner call for it but now ?" 

Still his look did not fail. 

"And thou, my child; shall I leave thee a beggar?' 

" Nay, father, am not I, because I am thy child, his bond- 
servant? And of whom was it written, 'Strength and hon- 
or are her clothing, and she shall rejoice in time to comeP" 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. IQl 

A gleam of inefEable love lighted his face as he said, 
"The Lord hath been good to me in many ways; but thou, 
Esther, art the sovereign excellence of his favor." 

He drew her to his breast and kissed her many times. 

" Hear now," he said, with clearer voice — " hear now why 
I laughed this morning. The young man faced me the ap- 
parition of his father in comely youth. My spirit arose to 
salute him. I felt my trial-days were over and my labors 
ended. Hardly could I keep from crying out. I longed to 
take him by the hand and show the balance I had earned, 
and say, * Lo, 'tis all thine I and I am thy servant, ready now 
to be called away.' And so I would have done, Esther, so 
I would have done, but that moment three thoughts rushed 
to restrain me. I will be sure he is my master's son — such 
was the first thought ; if he is my master's son, I will learn 
somewhat of his nature. Of those born to riches, bethink 
you, Esther, how many there are in whose hands riches are 
but breeding curses " — ^he paused, while his hands clutched, 
and his voice shrilled with passion — " Esther, consider the 
pains I endured at the Roman's hands; nay, not Gratus's 
alone: the merciless wretches who did his bidding the 
first time and the last were Romans, and they all alike 
laughed to hear me scream. Consider my broken body, and 
the years I have gone shorn of my stature ; consider thy 
mother yonder in her lonely tomb, crushed of soul as I of 
body ; consider the sorrows of my master's family if they 
are living, and the cruelty of their taking-off if they are 
dead ; consider all, and, with Heaven's love about thee, tell 
me, daughter, shall not a hair fall or a red drop run in ex- 
piation ? Tell me not, as the preachers sometimes do— tell 
me not that vengeance is the Lord's. Does he not work 
his will harmfully as well as in love by agencies ? Has he 
not his men of war more numerous than his prophets ? Is 
not his the law. Eye for eye, hand for hand, foot for foot ? 
Oh, in all these years I have dreamed of vengeance, and 
prayed and provided for it, and gathered patience from the 
growing of my store, thinking and promising, as the Lord 
liveth, it will one day buy me punishment of the wrong- 
doers ? And when, speaking of his practice with arms, the 
young roan said it was for a nameless purpose, I named the 



X92 BENHUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

purpose even as he spoke — vengeance! and that, Esther, 
that it was — the third thought which held me still and hard 
while his pleading lasted, and made me laugh when he was 
gone." 

Esther caressed the faded hands, and said, as if her spirit 
with his were running forward to results, "He is gone. 
Will he come again ?" 

" Ay, Malluch the faithful goes with him, and will bring 
him back when I am ready." 

" And when will that be, father f 

" Not long, not long. He thinks all his witnesses dead. 
There is one living who will not fail to know him, if he be 
indeed my master's son." 

"His mother?" 

" Nay, daughter, I will set the witness before him ; till 
then let us rest the business with the Lord. I am tired. 
Call Abimelech." 

Esther called the servant, and they returned into tho 
house. 



Chapter V. 

When Ben-Hur sallied from the great warehouse, it was 
with the thought that another failure was to be added to 
the many he had already met in the quest for his people; 
and the idea was depressing exactly in proportion as the 
objects of his quest were dear to him ; it curtained him 
round about with a sense of utter loneliness on earth, which, 
more than anything else, serves to eke from a soul cast 
down its remaining interest in life. 

Through the people, and the piles of goods, he made way 
to the edge of the landing, and was tempted by the cool 
shadows darkening the river's depth. The lazy current 
seemed to stop and wait for him. In counteraction of the 
spell, the saying of the voyager flashed into memory — 
" Better be a worm, and f eed*^ upon the mulberries of Daph- 
ne, than a king's guest." He turned, and walked rapidly 
down the landing and back to the khan. 

" The road to Daphne !" the steward said, surprised at 



BENHUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 193 

the question Ben-Har put to him. *^ Yon have not been 
here before? Well, count this the happiest day of your 
life. You cannot mistake the road. The next street to 
the left, going south, leads straight to Mount Sulpius, 
crowned by the altar of Jupiter and the Amphitheatre; 
keep it to the third cross street, known as Herod's Colon- 
nade ; turn to your right there, and hold the way through 
the old city of Seleucus to the bronze gates of Epiphanes. 
There the road to Daphne begins — and may the gods keep 
you 1" 

A few directions respecting his baggage, and Ben-Hur 
set out. 

The Colonnade of Herod was easily found; thence to 
the brazen gates, under a continuous marble portico, he 
passed with a multitude mixed of people from all the trad- 
ing nations of the earth. 

It was about the fourth hour of the day when he passed 
out the gate, and found himself one of a procession appar- 
ently interminable, moving to the famous Grove. The 
road was divided into separate ways for footmen, for men 
on horses, and men in chariots ; and those again into sepa- 
rate ways for outgoers and incomers. The lines of division 
were guarded by low balustrading, broken by massive ped- 
estals, many of which were surmounted with statuary. 
Right and left of the road extended margins of sward per- 
fectly kept, relieved at intervals by groups of oak and syc- 
amore trees, and vine-clad summer-houses for the accommo- 
dation of the weary, of whom, on the return side, there 
were always multitudes. The ways of the footmen were 
paved with red stone, and those of the riders strewn with 
white sand compactly rolled, but not so solid as to give 
back an echo to hoof or wheel. The number and variety 
of fountains at play were amazing, all gifts of visiting kings, 
and called after them. Out southwest to the gates of the 
Grove, the magnificent thoroughfare stretched a little over 
four miles from the city. 

In his wretchedness of feeling, Ben-Hur barely observed 

the royal liberality which marked the construction of the 

road. Nor more did he at first notice the crowd going 

with him. He treated the processional displays with like 

13 



194 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

indifference. To say tnith, besides his self-absorption, he 
had not a little of the complacency of a Roman visiting the 
provinces fresh from the ceremonies which daily eddied 
round and round the golden pillar set up by Augustus as 
the centre of the world. It was not possible for the prov- 
inces to offer anything new or superior. He rather availed 
himself of every opportunity to push forward through the 
companies in the way, and too slow-going for his impatience. 
By the time he reached Heracleia, a suburban village inter- 
mediate the city and the Grove, he was somewhat spent 
with exercise, and began to be susceptible of entertainment. 
Once a pair of goats led by a beautiful woman, woman and 
goats alike brilliant with ribbons and flowers, attracted his 
attention. Then he stopped to look at a bull of mighty girth, 
and snowy-white, covered with vines freshly cut, and bear- 
ing on its broad back a naked child in a basket, the image 
of a young Bacchus, squeezing the juice of ripened berries 
into a goblet, and drinking with libational formulas. As 
he resumed his walk, he wondered whose altars would be 
enriched by the offerings. A horse went by with clipped 
mane, after the fashion of the time, his rider superbly 
dressed. He smiled to observe the harmony of pride be- 
tween the man and the brute. Often after that he turned 
his head at hearing the rumble of wheels and the dull thud 
of hoofs ; unconsciously he was becoming interested in the 
styles of chariots and charioteers, as they rustled past him 
going and coming. Nor was it long until he began to 
make notes of the people around him. He saw they were 
of all ages, sexes, and conditions, and all in holiday attire. 
One company was uniformed in white, another in black ; 
some bore flags, some smoking censers ; some went slowly, 
singing hymns ; others stepped to the music of flutes and 
tabrets. If such were the going to Daphne every day in 
the year, what a wondrous sight Daphne must be ! At 
last there was a clapping of hands, and a burst of joyous 
cries; following the pointing of many fingers, he looked 
and saw upon the brow of a hill the templed gate of the 
consecrated Grove. The hymns swelled to louder strains ; 
the music quickened time ; and, borne along by the impul- 
sive current, and sharing the common eagerness, he passed 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 195 

in, and, Romanized in taste as he was, fell to worshipping 
the place. 

Rearward of the structure which graced the entrance-way 
— a purely Grecian pile — he stood upon a broad esplanade 
paved with polished stone ; around him a restless exclama- 
tory multitude, in gayest colors, relieved against the irides- 
cent spray flying crystal-white from fountains ; before him, 
off to the southwest, dustless paths radiated out into a gar- 
den, and beyond that into a forest, over which rested a veil 
of pale -blue vapor. Ben-Hur gazed wistfully, uncertain 
where to go. A woman that moment exclaimed, 

" Beautiful ! But where to now ?" 

Her companion, wearing a chaplet of bays, laughed and 
answered, ** Go to, thou pretty barbarian ! The question im- 
plies an earthly fear ; and did we not agree to leave all such 
behind in Antioch with the rusty earth ? The winds which 
blow here are respirations of the gods. Let us give our- 
selves to waftage of the winds." 

"But if we should get lost?" 

" O thou timid ! No one was ever lost in Daphne, ex- 
cept those on whom her gates close forever." 

" And who are they ?" she asked, still fearful. 

"Such as have yielded to the charms of the place and 
chosen it for life and death. Hark ! Stand we here, and 
I will show you of whom I speak." 

Upon the marble pavement there was a skurry of san- 
dalled feet; the crowd opened, and a party of girls rushed 
about the speaker and his fair friend, and began singing and 
dancing to the tabrets they themselves touched. The wom- 
an, scared, clung to the man, who put an arm about her, and, 
with kindled face, kept time to the music with the other 
hand overhead. The hair of the dancers floated free, and 
their limbs blushed through the robes of gauze which scarce- 
ly draped them. Words may not be used to tell of the 
voluptuousness of the dance. One brief round, and they 
darted off through the yielding crowd lightly as they had 
come. 

"Now what think you?" cried the man to the woman. 

" Who are they ?" she asked. 

" Devadasi — priestesses devoted to the Temple of Apollo. 



196 BENHUR: A TALK OF THE CHRIST. 

There is an army of them. They make the chorus in cele- 
brations. This is their home. Sometimes they wander ofE 
to other cities, but ail they make is brought here to enrich 
the house of the divine musician. Shall we go now f ' 

Next minute the two were gone. 

£en-Hur took comfort in the assurance that no one was 
ever lost in Daphne, and he, too, set out — where, he knew 
not. 

A sculpture reared upon a beautiful pedestal in the gar- 
den attracted him first. It proved to be the statue of a 
centaur. An inscription informed the unlearned visitor that 
it exactly represented Chiron, the beloved of Apollo and 
Diana, instructed by them in the mysteries of hunting, med- 
icine, music, and prophecy. The inscription also bade the 
stranger look out at a certain part of the heavens, at a 
tjertain hour of the clear night, and he would behold the 
dead alive among the stars, whither Jupiter had transferred 
the good genius. 

The wisest of the centaurs continued, nevertheless, in the 
service of mankind. In his hand he held a scroll, on which, 
graven in Greek, were paragraphs of a notice : 

"0 Traveller! 
" Art thou a stranger ? 
" I. Hearken to the singing of the brooks, and fear not the rain of 
the fountains ; so will the Naiades learn to love thee. 

" II. The invited breezes of Daphne are Zephyrus and Auster ; gen- 
tle ministers of life, they wiU gather sweets for thee; when Euros 
blows, Diana is elsewhere hunting ; when Boreas blusters, go hide, for 
Apollo is angry. 

" III. The shades of the Grove are thine in the day ; at night they 
belong to Pan and his Dryades. Disturb them not. 

" IV. Eat of the Lotus by the brooksides sparingly, unless thou 
wouldst have surcease of memory, which is to become a child of 
Daphne. 

"V. Walk thou round the weaving spider — His Arachne at work 
for Minerva. 

"YI. Wouldst thou behold the tears of Daphne, break but a bud 
from a laurel bough — and die. 

"Heed thou! 
"And stay and be happy." 

Ben-Hur left the interpretation of the mystic notice to 
others fast enclosing him, and turned away as the white bull 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 197 

was led by. The boy sat in the basket, followed by a pro* 
cession ; after them again, the woman with the goats ; and 
behind her, the flute and tabret players, and another proces- 
sion of gift-bringers. 

" Whither go they 1" asked a bystander. 

Another made answer, "The bull to Father Jove; the 
goat — ^" 

" Did not Apollo once keep the flocks of Admetus ?" 

" Ay, the goat to Apollo 1" 

The goodness of the reader is again besought in favor of 
an explanation. A certain facility of accommodation in the 
matter of religion comes to us after much intercourse with 
people of a different faith ; gradually we attain the truth 
that every creed is illustrated by good men who are entitled 
to our respect, but whom we cannot respect without cour- 
tesy to their creed. To this point Ben-Hur had arrived. 
Neither the years in Rome nor those in the galley had 
made any impression upon his religious faith : he was yet 
a Jew. In his view, nevertheless, it was not an impiety to 
look for the beautiful in the Grove of Daphne. 

The remark does not interdict the further saying, if his 
scruples had been ever so extreme, not improbably he would 
at this time have smothered them. He was angry ; not as 
the irritable, from chafing of a trifle ; nor was his anger like 
the fool's, pumped from the wells of nothing, to be dissi- 
pated by a reproach or a curse ; it was the wrath peculiar 
to ardent natures rudely awakened by the sudden annihila- 
tion of a hope— dream, if you will — in which the choicest 
happinesses were thought to be certainly in reach. In such 
case nothing intermediate will carry off the passion — the 
quarrel is with Fate. 

Let us follow the philosophy a little further, and say to 
ourselves, it were well in such quarrels if Fate were some- 
thing tangible, to be despatched with a look or a blow, or a 
speaking personage with whom high words were possible ; 
then the unhappy mortal would not always end the affair 
by punishing himself. 

In ordinary mood, Ben-Hur would not have come to the 
Grove alone, or, coming alone, he would have availed himself 
of his position in the consul's family, and made provision 



198 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

against wandering idly about, unknowing and unknown ; he 
would have had all the points of interest in mind, and gone 
to them under guidance, as in the despatch of business ; or, 
wishing to squander days of leisure in the beautiful place, 
he would have had in hand a letter to the master of it all, 
whoever he might be. This would have made him a sight- 
seer, like the shouting herd he was accompanying ; whereas 
he had no reverence for the deities of the Grove, nor curios- 
ity ; a man in the blindness of bitter disappointment, he 
was adrift, not waiting for Fate, but seeking it as a desper- 
ate challenger. 

Every one has known this condition of mind, though per- 
haps not all in the same degree ; every one will recognize it 
as the condition in which he has done brave things with ap- 
parent serenity ; and every one reading will say. Fortunate 
for Ben-Hur if the folly which now catches him is but a 
friendly harlequin with whistle and painted cap, and not 
some Violence with a pointed sword pitiless. 



Chapter VL 

Ben-Hur entered the woods with the processions. He 
had not interest enough at first to ask where they were go- 
ing ; yet, to relieve him from absolute indifference, he had a 
vague impression that they were in movement to the tem- 
ples, which were the central objects of the Grove, supreme 
in attractions. 

Presently, as singers dreamfully play with a flitting cho- 
rus, he began repeating to himself, " Better be a worm, and 
feed on the mulberries of Daphne, than a king's guest." 
Then of the much repetition arose questions importunate of 
answer. Was life in the Grove so very sweet? Wherein 
was the charm ? Did it lie in some tangled depth of phi- 
losophy ? Or was it something in fact, something on the 
surface, discernible to every -day wakeful senses? Every 
year thousands, forswearing the world, gave themselves to 
service here. Did they find the charm ? And was it suffi- 
cient, when found, to induce f orgetf ulness profound enough 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 199 

to shut out of mind the infinitely diverse things of life ? 
those that sweeten and those that iinbitter? hopes hov- 
ering in the near future as well as sorrows born of the past ? 
If the Grove were so good for them, why should it not be 
good for him ? He was a Jew ; could it be that the excel- 
lences were for all the world but children of Abraham ? 
Forthwith he bent all his faculties to the task of discovery, 
unmindful of the singing of the gift-bringers and the quips 
of his associates. 

In the quest, the sky yielded him nothing ; it was blue, 
very blue, and full of twittering swallows — so was the sky 
over the city. 

Further on, out of the woods at his right hand, a breeze 
poured across the road, splashing him with a wave of sweet 
smells, blent of roses and consuming spices. He stopped, 
as did others, looking the way the breeze came. 

" A garden over there," he said, to a man at his elbow. 

" Rather some priestly ceremony in performance — some- 
thing to Diana, or Pan, or a deity of the woods." 

The answer was in his mother tongue. Ben-Hur gave the 
speaker a surprised look. 

" A Hebrew ?" he asked him. 

The man replied with a deferential smile, 

" I was born within a stoneVthrow of the market-place 
in Jerusalem." 

Ben - Hur was proceeding to further speech, when the 
crowd surged forward, thrusting him out on the side of the 
walk next the woods, and carrying the stranger away. The 
customary gown and stafE, a brown cloth on the head tied 
by a yellow rope, and a strong Judean face to avouch the 
garments of honest right, remained in the young man's 
mind, a kind of summary of the man. 

This took place at a point where a path into the woods 
began, offering a happy escape from the noisy processions. 
Ben-Hur availed himself of the offer. 

He walked first into a thicket which, from the road, ap- 
peared in a state of nature, close, impenetrable, a nesting- 
place for wild birds. A few steps, however, gave him to 
see the master's hand even there. The shrubs were flower- 
ing or fruit-bearing ; under the bending branches the ground 



200 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

was pranked with brightest blooms ; over them the jasmine 
stretched its delicate bonds. From lilac and rose, and lily 
and tulip, from oleander and strawberry-tree, all old friends 
in the gardens of the valleys about the city of David, the 
air, lingering or in haste, loaded itself with exhalations day 
and night ; and that nothing might be wanting to the hap- 
piness of the nymphs and naiads, down through the flower- 
lighted shadows of the mass a brook went its course gently, 
and by many winding ways. 

Out of the thicket, as he proceeded, on his right and left, 
issued the cry of the pigeon and the cooing of turtle-doves ; 
blackbirds waited for him, and bided his coming close ; a 
nightingale kept its place fearless, though he passed in arm^s- 
length ; a quail ran before him at his feet, whistling to the 
brood she was leading, and as he paused for them to get 
out of his way, a figure crawled from a bed of honeyed 
musk brilliant with balls of golden blossoms. £en-Hur was 
startled. Had he, indeed, been permitted to see a satyr at 
home ? The creature looked up at him, and showed in its 
teeth a hooked pruning-knife ; he smiled at his own scare, 
and, lo ! the charm was evolved ! Peace without fear — ^peace 
a universal condition — that it was ! 

He sat upon the ground beneath a citron -tree, which 
spread its gray roots sprawling to receive a branch of the 
brook. The nest of a titmouse hung close to the bubbling 
water, and the tiny creature looked out of the door of the 
nest into his eyes. " Verily, the bird is interpreting to me," 
he thought. " It says, * I am not afraid of you, for the law 
of this happy place is Love.' '* 

The charm of the Grove seemed plain to him ; he was 
glad, and determined to render himself one of the lost in 
Daphne. In charge of the flowers and shrubs, and watch- 
ing the growth of all the dumb excellences everywhere to 
be seen, could not he, like the man with the pruning-knife 
in his mouth, forego the days of his troubled life — forego 
them forgetting and forgotten ? 

But by -and -by his Jewish nature began to stir within 
him. 

The charm might be suflScient for some people. Of what 
kind were they ? 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 201 

Love is delightful — ah ! how pleasant as a successor to 
wretchedness like his. But was it all there was of life? 
All? 

There was an unlikeness between him and those who bur- 
ied themselves contentedly here. They had no duties — they 
could not have had ; but he — 

" God of Israel 1" he cried aloud, springing to his feet, 
with burning cheeks — "Mother! Tirzah! Cursed be the 
moment, cursed the place, in which I yield myself happy in 
your loss !" 

He hurried away through the thicket, and came to a 
stream flowing with the volume of a river between banks 
of masonry, broken at intervals by gated sluiceways. A 
bridge carried the path he was traversing across the stream ; 
and, standing upon it, he saw other bridges, no two of them 
alike. Under him the water was lying in a deep pool, clear 
as a shadow ; down a little way it tumbled with a roar over 
rocks ; then there was another pool, and another cascade ; 
and so on, out of view ; and bridges and pools and resound- 
ing cascades said, plainly as inarticulate things can tell a 
story, the river was running by permission of a master, ex- 
actly as the master would have it, tractable as became a ser- 
vant of the gods. 

Forward from the bridge he beheld a landscape of wide 
valleys and irregular heights, with groves and lakes and 
fancftul houses linked together by white paths and shining 
streams. The valleys were spread below, that the river 
might be poured upon them for refreshment in days of 
drought, and they were as green carpets figured with beds 
and fields of flowers, and flecked with flocks of sheep white 
as balls of snow ; and the voices of shepherds following the 
flocks were heard afar. As if to tell him of the pious in- 
scription of all he beheld, the altars out under the open sky 
seemed countless, each with a white-gowned figure attending 
it, while processions in white went slowly hither and thither 
between them ; and the smoke of the altars half-risen hung 
collected in pale clouds over the devoted places. 

Here, there, happy in flight, intoxicated in pause, from 
object to object, point to point, now in the meadow, now 
on the heights, now lingering to penetrate the groves and 



202 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

observe the processions, then lost in efforts to pursue the 
paths and streams which trended mazily into dim perspec- 
tives to end finally in — Ah, what might be a fitting end to 
scene so beautiful ! What adequate mysteries were hidden 
behind an introduction so marvellous ! Here and there, the 
speech was beginning, his gaze wandered, so he could not 
help the conviction, forced by the view, and as the sum of 
it all, that there was peace in the air and on the earth, and 
invitation everywhere to come and lie down here and be at 
rest. 

Suddenly a revelation dawned upon him — the Grove was, 
in fact, a temple — one far-reaching, wall-less temple ! 

Never anything like it ! 

The architect had not stopped to pother about columns 
and porticos, proportions or interiors, or any limitation upon 
the epic he sought to materialize ; he had simply made a 
servant of Nature — art can go no further. So the cunning 
son of Jupiter and Callisto built the old Arcadia; and in' 
this, as in that, the genius was Greek. 

From the bridge Ben-Hur went forward into the nearest 
valley. 

He came to a flock of sheep. The shepherd was a girl, 
and she beckoned him, " Come !" 

Farther on, the path was divided by an altar — a pedestal 
of black gneiss, capped with a slab of white marble deftly 
foliated, and on that a brazier of bronze holding a fire. 
Close by it, a woman, seeing him, waved a wand of wil- 
low, and as he passed called him, " Stay !" And the temp- 
tation in her smile was that of passionate youth. 

On yet further, he met one of the processions ; at its 
head a troop of little girls, nude except as they were cov- 
ered with garlands, piped their shrill voices into a song; 
then a troop of boys, also nude, their bodies deeply sun- 
browned, came dancing to the song of the girls ; behind 
them the procession, all women, bearing baskets of spices 
and sweets to the altars — women clad in simple robes, care- 
less of exposure. As he went by they held their hands to 
him, and said, " Stay, and go with us." One, a Greek, sang 
a verse from Anacreon : 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 203 

" For to-day I take or give ; 
For to-day I drink and live ; 
For to-day I beg or borrow ; 
Who knows about the silent morrow ?" 

But he pursued his way indifferent, and came next to a 
grove luxuriant, in the heart of the vale at the point where 
it would be most attractive to the observing eye. As it 
came close to the path he was travelling, there was a seduc- 
tion in its shade, and through the foliage he caught the 
shining of what appeared a pretentious statue ; so he turned 
aside, and entered the cool retreat. 

The grass was fresh and clean. The trees did not crowd 
each other ; and they were of every kind native to the East, 
blended well with strangers adopted from far quarters ; here 
grouped in exclusive companionship palm-trees plumed like 
queens ; there sycamores, overtopping laurels of darker fo- 
liage ; and evergreen oaks rising verdantly, with cedars vast 
enough to be kings on Lebanon ; and mulberries ; and tere- 
binths so beautiful it is not hyperbole to speak of them as 
blown from the orchards of Paradise. 

The statue proved to be a Daphne of wondrous beauty. 
Hardly, however, had he time to more than glance at her 
face : at the base of the pedestal a girl and a youth were 
lying upon a tiger's skin asleep in each other's arms ; close 
by them the implements of their service — his axe and sickle, 
her basket — flung carelessly upon a heap of fading roses. 

The exposure startled him. Back in the hush of the per- 
fumed thicket he discovered, as he thought, that the charm 
of the great Grove was peace without fear, and almost yield- 
ed to it ; now, in this sleep in the day's broad glare — this 
sleep at the feet of Daphne — he read a further chapter to 
which only the vaguest allusion is sufferable. The law of 
the place was Love, but Love without Law. 

And this was the sweet peace of Daphne ! 

This the life's end of her ministei's ! 

For this kings and princes gave of their revenues ! 

For this a crafty priesthood subordinated nature — ^her birds 
and brooks and lilies, the river, the labor of many hands, 
the sanctity of altars, the fertile power of the sun ! 

It would be pleasant now to re^^^rd that as Ben-Hur pur- 



204 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

sued his walk assailed by such reflections, he yielded some- 
what to sorrow for the votaries of the great outdoor tem- 
ple ; especially for those who, by personal service, kept it 
in a state so surpassingly lovely. How they came to the 
condition was not any longer a mystery ; the motive, the 
influence, the inducement, were before him. Some there 
were, no doubt, caught by the promise held out to their 
troubled spirits of endless peace in a consecrated abode, to 
the beauty of which, if they had not money, they could con- 
tribute their labor ; this class implied intellect peculiarly sub- 
ject to hope and fear; but the great body of the faithful 
could not be classed with such. Apollo's nets were wide, 
and their meshes small; and hardly may one tell what all 
his fishermen landed : this less for that they cannot be de- 
scribed than because they ought not to be. Enough that 
the mass were of the sybarites of the world, and of the herds 
in number vaster and in degree lower — devotees of the un- 
mixed sensualism to which the East was almost wholly given. 
Not to any of the exaltations — not to the singing-god, or 
his unhappy mistress ; not to any philosophy requiring for 
its enjoyment the calm of retirement, nor to any service for 
the comfort there is in religion, nor to love in its holier 
sense — were they abiding their vows. Good reader, why 
shall not the truth be told here ? Why not learn that, at 
this age, there were in all earth but two peoples capable of 
exaltations of the kind referred to^those who lived bv the 
law of Moses, and those who lived by the law of Brahma. 
They alone could have cried you, Better a law without love 
than a love without law. 

Besides that, sympathy is in great degree a result of the 
mood we are in at the moment : anger forbids the emotion. 
On the other hand, it is easiest taken on when we are in a 
state of most absolute self-satisfaction. Ben-Hur walked 
with a quicker step, holding his head higher ; and, while 
not less sensitive to the delightfulness of all about him, he 
made his survey with calmer spirit, though sometimes with 
curling lip ; that is to say, he could not so soon forget how 
nearly he himself had been imposed upon. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 205 



Chapter VII. 

In front of Ben-Hur there was a forest of cypress-trees, 
each a column tall and straight as a mast. Venturing into 
the shady precinct, he heard a trumpet gayly blown, and an 
instant after saw lying upon the grass close by the country- 
man whom he had run upon in the road going to the tem- 
ples. The man arose, and came to him. 

" I give you peace again," he said, pleasantly. 

"Thank you," Ben-Hur replied, then asked, "Go you 
my way ?" 

" I am for the stadium, if that is your way." 

" The stadium !" 

" Yes. The trumpet you heard but now was a call for 
the competitors." 

" Good friend," said Ben-Hur, frankly, " I admit my ig- 
norance of the Grove ; and if you will let me be your follow- 
er, I will be glad." 

" That will delight me. Hark ! I hear the wheels of the 
chariots. They are taking the track." 

Ben-Hur listened a moment, then completed the intro- 
duction by laying his hand upon the man's arm, and saying, 
"I am the son of Arrius, the duumvir, and thou?" 

" I am Malluch, a merchant of Antioch." 

"Well, good Malluch, the trumpet, and the gride of 
wheels, and the prospect of diversion excite me. I have 
some skill in the exercises. In the palaestrae of Eome I am 
not unknown. Let us to the course." 

Malluch lingered to say, quickly, "The duumvir was a 
Roman, yet I see his son in the garments of a Jew." 

" The noble Arrius was my father by adoption," Ben-Hur 
answered. 

" Ah ! I see, and beg pardon." 

Passing through the belt of forest, they came to a field 
with a track laid out upon it, in shape and extent exactly like 
those of the stadia. The course, or track proper, was of soft 



206 B£N.HUB: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

earth, rolled and sprinkled, and on both sides defined by 
ropes, stretched loosely upon upright javelins. For the ac- 
commodation of spectators, and soch as had interests reach- 
ing forward of the mere practice, there were several stands 
shaded by substantial awnings, and provided with seats in 
rising rows. In one of the stands the two new-comers 
found places. 

Ben-Hur connted the chariots as they went by — ^nine in all. 

" I conmiend the fellows," he said, with good-wilL " Here 
in the East, I thought they aspired to nothing better than 
the two ; but they are ambitious, and play with royal fours. 
Let us study their performance." 

Eight of the fours passed the stand, some walking, 
others on the trot, and all unexceptionably handled; then 
the ninth one came on the gallop. Ben-Hur burst into ex- 
clamation. 

" I have been in the stables of the emperor, Malluch, but, 
by our father Abraham of blessed memory ! I never saw 
the like of these." 

The last four was then sweeping past. All at once they 
fell into confusion. Some one on the stand uttered a sharp 
cry. Ben-Hur turned, and saw an old man half-risen from 
an upper seat, his hands clenched and raised, his eyes fierce- 
ly bright, his long white beard fairly quivering. Some of 
the spectators nearest him began to laugh. 

"They should respect Ms beard at least Who is he?" 
asked Ben-Hur. 

"A mighty man from the Desert, somewhere beyond 
Moab, and owner of camels in herds, and horses descended, 
they say, from the racers of the first Pharaoh — Sheik Dde- 
rim by name and title." 

Thus Malluch replied. 

The driver meanwhile exerted himself to quiet the four, 
but without avail. Each ineffectual effort excited the sheik 
the more. 

"Abaddon seize him!" yelled the patriarch, shrilly. 
" Run ! fly ! do you hear, my children ?" The question 
was to his attendants, apparently of the tribe. " Do you 
hear? They are Desert-bom, like yourselves. Catch them 
—quick!" 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 207 

The plunging of the animals increased. 

^^ Accursed Ronaan !" and the sheik shook his fist at the 
driver. " Did he not swear he could drive them — swear it 
by all his brood of bastard Latin gods ? Nay, hands off me 
— off, I say ! They should run swift as eagles, and with 
the temper of hand-bred lambs, he swore. Cursed be he-^ 
cursed the mother of liars who calls him son ! See them, 
the priceless! Let him touch one of them with a lash, 
and" — the rest of the sentence was lost in a furious grind- 
ing of his teeth. " To their heads, some of you, and speak 
them — a word, one is enough, from the tent-song your 
mothers sang you. Oh, fool, fool that I was to put trust 
in a Roman I" 

Some of the shrewder of the old man's friends planted 
themselves between him and the horses. An opportune 
failure of breath on his part helped the stratagem. 

Ben-Hur, thinking he comprehended the sheik, sympa- 
thized with him. Far more than mere pride of property — 
more than anxiety for the result of the race — in his view it 
was within the possible for the patriarch, according to his 
habits of thought and his ideas of the inestimable, to love 
such animals with a tenderness akin to the most sensitive 
passion. 

They were all bright bays, unspotted, perfectly matched, 
and so proportioned as to seem less than they really were. 
Delicate ears pointed small heads ; the faces were broad and 
full between the eyes; the nostrils in expansion disclosed 
membrane so deeply red as to suggest the flashing of flame ; 
the necks were arches, overlaid with fine mane so abun- 
dant as to drape the shoulders and breast, while in happy 
consonance the forelocks were like ra veilings of silken veils ; 
between the knees and the fetlocks the legs were fiat as an 
open hand, but above the knees they were rounded with 
mighty muscles, needful to upbear the shapely close-knit 
bodies ; the hoofs were like cups of polished agate ; and in 
rearing and plunging they whipped the air, and sometimes 
the earth, with tails glossy-black and thick and long. The 
sheik spoke of them as the priceless, and it was a good say- 
ing. 

In this second and closer look at the horses, Ben-Hur 



208 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

read the story of their relation to their master. They had 
grown up under his eyes, objects of his special care in the 
day, his visions of pride in the night, with his family at 
home in the black tent out on the shadeless bosom of the 
desert, as his children beloved. That they might win him 
a triumph over the haughty and hated Roman, the old man 
had brought his loves to the city, never doubting they would 
win, if only he could find a trusty expert to take them in 
hand ; not merely one with skill, but of a spirit which their 
spirits would acknowledge. Unlike the colder people of 
the West, he could not protest the driver's inability, and 
dismiss him civilly ; an Arab and a sheik, he had to explode, 
and rive the air about him with clamor. 

Before the patriarch was done with his expletives, a dozen 
hands were at the bits of the horses, and their quiet assured. 
About that time, another chariot appeared upon the track ; 
and, unlike the others, driver, vehicle, and racers were pre- 
cisely as they would be presented in the Circus the day of 
final trial. For a reason which will presently be more ap- 
parent, it is desirable now to give this turnout plainly to 
the reader. 

There should be no difficulty in understanding the car- 
riage known to us all as the chariot of classical renown. 
One has but to picture to himself a dray with low wheels 
and broad axle, surmounted by a box open at the tail-end. 
Such was the primitive pattern. Artistic genius came along 
in time, and, touching the rude machine, raised it into a 
thing of beauty — that, for instance, in which Aurora, riding 
in advance of the dawn, is given to our fancy. * 

The jockeys of the ancients, quite as shrewd and ambi- 
tious as their successors of the present, called their humblest 
turnout a two, and their best in grade a four; in the latter, 
they contested the Oljmapics and the other festal shows 
founded in imitation of them. 

The same sharp gamesters prefen'ed to put their horses 
to the chariot all abreast; and for distinction they termed 
the two next the pole yoke-steeds, and those on the right 
and left outside trace-mates. It was their judgment, also, 
that, by allowing the fullest freedom of action, the greatest 
speed was attainable ; accordingly, the harness resorted to 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 209 

was peculiarly simple ; in fact, there was nothing of it save 
a collar round the animaPa neck, and a trace fixed to the 
collar, unless the lines and a halter fall within the term. 
Wanting to hitch up, the masters pinned a narrow wooden 
yoke, or cross-tree, near the end of the pole, and, by straps 
passed through rings at the end of the yoke, buckled the 
latter to the collar. The traces of the yoke-steeds they 
hitched to the axle ; those of the trace-mates to the top rim 
of the chariot-bed. There remained then but the adjust- 
ment of the lines, which, judged by the modem devices, was 
not the least curious part of the method. For this there 
was a large ring at the forward extremity of the pole ; se- 
curing the ends to that ring first, they parted the lines so 
as to give one to each horse, and proceeded to pass them to 
the driver, slipping them separately through rings on the 
inner side of the halters at the mouth. 

With this plain generalization in mind, all further de- 
sirable knowledge upon the subject can be had by following 
the incidents of the scene occhrring. 

The other contestants had been received in silence ; the 
last comer was more fortunate. While moving towards the 
stand from which we are viewing the scene, his progress 
was signalized by loud demonstrations, by clapping of hands 
and cheers, the effect of which was to centre attention upon 
him exclusively. His yoke- steeds, it was observed, were 
black, while the trace-mates were snow-white. In conformity 
to the exacting canons of Roman taste, they had all four 
been mutilated ; that is to say, their tails had been clipped, 
and, to complete the barbarity, their shorn manes were 
divided into knots tied with flaring red and yellow rib- 
bons. 

In advancing, the stranger at length reached a point 
where the chariot came into view from the stand, and its 
appearance would of itself have justified the shouting. The 
wheels were very marvels of construction. Stout bands of 
burnished bronze reinforced the hubs, otherwise very light ; 
the spokes were sections of ivory tusks, set in with the nat^ 
ural curve outward to perfect the dishing, considered im- 
portant then as now ; bronze tires held the fellies, which 
were of shining ebony. The axle, in keeping with the 
14 



210 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

wheels, was tipped with heads of snarling tigers done in 
brass, and the bed was woven of willow wands gilded with 
gold. 

The coming of the beautiful horses and resplendent 
chariot drew Ben-Hur to look at the driver with increased 
interest. 

Who was he ? 

When Ben-Hur asked himself the question first, he could 
not see the man's face, or even his full figure ; yet the air 
and manner were familiar, and pricked him keenly with a 
reminder of a period long gone. 

Who could it be ? 

Nearer now, and the horses approaching at a trot. From 
the shouting and the gorgeousness of the turnout, it was 
thought he might be some oflScial favorite or famous prince. 
Such an appearance was not inconsistent with exalted rank. 
Kings often struggled for the crown of leaves which was 
the prize of victory. Nert) and Commodus, it will be re- 
membered, devoted themselves to the chariot. Ben-Hur 
arose and forced a passage down nearly to the railing in 
front of the lower seat of the stand. His face was earnest, 
his manner eager. 

And directly the whole person of the driver was in view. 
A companion rode with him, in classic description a Myrti- 
lus, permitted men of high estate indulging their passion 
for the race-course. Ben-Hur could see only the driver, 
standing erect in the chariot, with the reins passed several 
times round his body — a handsome figure, scantily covered 
by a tunic of light-red cloth ; in the right hand a whip ; in 
the other, the arm raised and lightly extended, the four 
lines. The pose was exceedingly graceful and animated. 
The cheers and clapping of hands were received with 
statuesque indifference. Ben-Hur stood transfixed — his in- 
stinct and memory had served him faithfully — the driver 
was Messala ! 

By the selection of horses, the magnificence of the chariot, 
the attitude, and display of person — above all, by the expres- 
sion of the cold, sharp, eagle features, imperialized in his 
countrymen by sway of the world through so many genera- 
tions, Ben-Hur knew Messala unchanged, as haughty, confi- 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 211 

dent, and audacious as ever, the same in ambition, cynicism, 
and mocking insouciance. 



Chapter VIII. 

As Ben-Hur descended the steps of the stand, an Arab 
arose upon the last one at the foot, and cried out, 

" Men of the East and West — hearken I The good Sheik 
Ilderim giveth greeting. With four horses, sons of the 
favorites of Solomon the Wise, he hath come up against the 
best. Needs he most a mighty man to drive them. Who- 
so will take them to his satisfaction, to him he promiseth 
enrichment forever. Here — there — in the city and in the 
Circuses, and wherever the strong most do congregate, tell 
ye this his offer. So saith my master. Sheik Ilderim the 
Generous." 

The proclamation awakened a great buzz among the 
people under the awning. By night it would be repeated 
and discussed in all the sporting circles of Antioch. Ben- 
Hur, hearing it, stopped and looked hesitatingly from the 
herald to the sheik. Malluch thought he was about to ac- 
cept the offer, but was relieved when he presently turned to 
him, and asked, " Good Malluch, where to now ?" 

The worthy replied, with a laugh, " Would you liken 
yourself to others visiting the Grove for the first time, you 
will straightway to hear your fortune told." 

" My fortune, said you ? Though the suggestion has in 
it a flavor of unbelief, let us to the goddess at once." 

" Nay, son of Arrius, these Apollonians have a better trick 
than that. Instead of speech with a Pythia or a Sibyl, they 
will sell you a plain papyrus leaf, hardly dry from the stalk, 
and bid you dip it in the water of a certain fountain, when 
it will show you a verse in which you may hear of your fut- 
ure." 

The glow of interest departed from Ben-Hur's face. 

" There are people who have no need to vex themselves 
about their future," he said, gloomily. 

" Then you prefer to go to the temples ?" 



212 BEJS-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

" The temples are Greek, are they not?" 

" They call them Greek." 

" The Hellenes were masters of the beautiful in art ; but 
in architecture they sacrificed variety to unbending beauty. 
Their temples are all alike. How call you the fountain ?" 

" Castalia." 

" Oh ! it has repute throughout the world. Let us thither." 

Malluch kept watch on his companion as they went, and 
saw that for the moment at least his good spirits were out. 
To the people passing he gave no attention ; over the won- 
ders they came upon there were no exclamations ; silently, 
even sullenly, he kept a slow pace. 

The truth was, the sight of Messala had set Ben-Hur to 
thinking. It seemed scarce an hour ago that the strong 
hands had torn him from his mother, scarce an hour ago that 
the Roman had put seal upon the gates of his father's house. 
He recounted how, in the hopeless misery of the life — ^if 
such it might be called — in the galleys, he had had little else 
to do, aside from labor, than dream dreams of vengeance, 
in all of which Messala was the principal. There might be, 
he used to say to himself, escape for Gratus, but for Messala 
— never ! And to strengthen and harden his resolution, he 
was accustomed to repeat over and over. Who pointed us 
out to the persecutors? And when I begged him for help 
— not for myself — who mocked me, and went away laugh- 
ing? And always the dream had the same ending. The 
day I meet him, help me, thou good God of my people ! — 
help me to some fitting special vengeance ! 

And now the meeting was at hand. 

Perhaps, if he had found Messala poor and suffering, Ben- 
Hur's feeling had been different; but it was not so. He 
found him more than prosperous; in the prosperity there 
was a dash and glitter — gleam of sun on gilt of gold. 

So it happened that what Malluch accounted a passing 
loss of spirit was pondering when the meeting should be, 
and in what manner he could make it most memorable. 

They turned after a while into an avenue of oaks, where 
the people were; going and coming in groups ; footmen here, 
and horsemen ; there women in litters borne by slaves ; and 
now and then chariots rolled by thunderously. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 213 

At the end of the avenue the road, by an easy grade, de- 
scended into a lowland, where, on the right hand, there was 
a precipitous facing of gray rock, and on the left an open 
meadow of vernal freshness. Then they came in view of 
the famous Fountain of Castalia. 

Edging through a company assembled at the point, Ben- 
Hur beheld a jet of sweet water pouring from the crest of a 
stone into a basin of black marble, where, after much boil- 
ing and foaming, it disappeared as through a funnel. 

By the basin, under a small portico cut in the solid wall, 
sat a priest, old, bearded, wrinkled, cowled — never being 
more perfectly eremitish. From the manner of the people 
present, hardly might one say which was the attraction, the 
fountain, forever sparkling, or the priest, forever there. He 
heard, saw, was seen, but never spoke. Occasionally a visit- 
or extended a hand to him with a coin in it. With a cun- 
ning twinkle of the eyes, he took the money, and gave the 
party in exchange a leaf of papyrus. 

The receiver made haste to plunge the papyrus into the 
basin ; then, holding the dripping leaf in the sunlight, he 
would be rewarded with a versified inscription upon its 
face ; and the fame of the fountain seldom suffered loss by 
poverty of merit in the poetry. Before Ben-Hur could test 
the oracle, some other visitors were seen approaching across 
the meadow, and their appearance piqued the curiosity of 
the company, his not less than theirs. 

He saw first a camel, very tall and very white, in lead- 
ing of a driver on horseback. A houdah on the animal, be- 
sides being unusually large, was of crimson and gold. Two 
other horsemen followed the camel with tall spears in 
hand. 

" What a wonderful camel !" said one of the company. 

" A prince from afar," another one suggested. 

" More likely a king." 

" If he vrere on an elephant, I would say he was a king." 

A third man had a very different opinion. 

" A camel — and a white camel !" he said, authoritatively. 
" By Apollo, friends, they who come yonder — you can see 
there are two of them — are neither kings nor princes ; they 
are women !" 



214 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

In the midst of the dispute the strangers arrived. 

The camel seen at hand did not belie his appearance afar. 
A taller, statelier brute of his kind no traveller at the foun- 
tain, though from the remotest parts, had ever beheld. Such 
great black eyes ! such exceedingly fine white hair ! feet so 
contractile when raised, so soundless in planting, so broad 
when set ! — nobody had ever seen the peer of this camel. 
And how well he became his housing of silk, and all its 
frippery of gold in fringe and gold in tassel ! The tinkling 
of silver bells went before him, and he moved lightly, as if 
unknowing of his burden. 

But who were the man and woman under the houdah ? 

Every eye saluted them with the inquiry. 

If the former were a prince or a king, the philosophers 
of the crowd might not deny the impartiality of Time. 
When they saw the thin shrunken face buried under an im- 
mense turban, the skin of the hue of a mummy, making it 
impossible to form an idea of his nationality, they were 
pleased to think the limit of life was for the great as well 
as the small. They saw about his person nothing so envia- 
ble as the shawl which draped him. 

The woman was seated in the manner of the East, amidst 
veils and laces of surpassing fineness. Above her elbows 
she wore armlets fashioned like coiled asps, and linked to 
bracelets at the vyrists by strands of gold; otherwise the 
arms were bare and of singular natural grace, complemented 
with hands modelled daintily as a child's. One of the hands 
rested upon the side of the carriage, showing tapered fingers 
glittering with rings, and stained at the tips till they blushed 
like the pink of mother-of-pearl. She wore an open caul 
upon her head, sprinkled with beads of coral, and strung 
with coin-pieces called sunlets, some of which were carried 
across her forehead, while others fell down her back, half- 
smothered in the mass of her straight blue-black hair, of it- 
self an incomparable ornament, not needing the veil which 
covered it, except as a protection against sun and dust. 
From her elevated seat she looked upon the people calmly, 
pleasantly, and apparently so intent upon studying them as 
to be unconscious of the interest she herself was exciting; 
and, what was unusual — nay, in violent contravention of the 



BEN-HUB: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 215 

custom among women of rank in public — she looked at 
them with an open face. 

It was a fair face to see ; quite youthful ; in form, oval : 
complexion not white, like the Greek ; nor brunet, like the 
Roman ; nor blond, like the Gaul ; but rather the tinting of 
the sun of the Upper Nile upon a skin of such transparency 
that the blood shone through it on cheek and brow with 
nigh the ruddiness of lamplight. The eyes, naturally large, 
were touched along the lids with the black paint immemonal 
throughout the East. The lips were slightly parted, disclos- 
ing, through their scarlet lake, teeth of glistening whiteness. 
To all these excellences of countenance the reader is finally 
besought to superadd the air derived from the pose of a 
small head, classic in shape, set upon a neck long, drooping, 
and graceful — ^tbe air, we may fancy, happily described by 
the word queenly. 

As if satisfied with the survey of people and locality, the 
fair creature spoke to the driver — an Ethiopian of vast 
brawn, naked to the waist — who led the camel nearer the 
fountain, and caused it to kneel ; after which he received 
from her hand a cup, and proceeded to fill it at the basin. 
That instant the sound of wheels and the trampling of horses 
in rapid motion broke the silence her beauty had imposed, 
and, with a great outcry, the bystanders parted in every di- 

" The Roman has a mind to ride us down. Look out !" 
Malluch shouted to Ben-Hur, setting him at the same time 
an example of hasty flight 

The latter faced to the direction the sounds came from, 
and beheld Messala in his chariot pushing the four straight 
at the crowd. This time the view was near and distinct 

The parting of the company uncovered the camel, which 
might have been more agile than his kind generally ; yet 
the hoofs were almost upon him, and he resting with closed 
eyes, chewing the endless cud with such sense of security as 
long favoritism may be supposed to have bred in him. The 
Ethiopian wrung his hands afraid. In the houdah, the 
old man moved to escape ; but he was hampered with age, 
and could not, even in the face of danger, forget the dignity 
which was plainly his habit It was too late for the woman 



216 BEN.HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

to save herself. Ben-Hur stood nearest them, and he called 
to Messala, 

" Hold ! Look where thou goest ! Back, back !" 

The patrician was laughing in hearty good-humor ; and, 
seeing there was but one chance of rescue, Ben-Hur stepped 
in, and caught the bits of the left yoke-steed and his mate. 
" Dog of a Roman ! Carest thou so little for life f ' he cried, 
putting forth all his strength. The two horses reared, and 
drew the others round ; the tilting of the pole tilted the char- 
iot; Messala barely escaped a fall, while his complacent Myr- 
tilus rolled back like a clod to the ground. Seeing the peril 
past, all the bystanders burst into derisive laughter. 

The matchless audacity of the Roman then manifested it- 
self. Loosing the lines from his body, he tossed them to 
one side, dismounted, walked round the camel, looked at 
Ben-Hur, and spoke partly to the old man and partly to the 
woman. 

" Pardon, I pray you — I pray you both. I am Messala,'' 
he said ; " and, by the old Mother of the earth, I swear I did 
not see you or your camel ! As to these good people — per- 
haps I trusted too much to my skill. I sought a laugh at 
them — the laugh is theirs. Good may it do them !" 

The good-natured, careless look and gesture he threw the 
bystanders accorded well with the speech. To hear what 
more he had to say, they became quiet. Assured of victory 
over the body of the offended, he signed his companion 
to take the chariot to a safer distance, and addressed himself 
boldly to the woman. 

" Thou hast interest in the good man here, whose par- 
don, if not granted now, I shall seek with the greater dili- 
gence hereafter ; his daughter, I should say." 

She made him no reply. 

" By Pallas, thou art beautiful ! Beware Apollo mistake 
thee not for his lost love. I wonder what land can boast 
herself thy mother. Turn not away. A truce I a truce ! 
There is the sun of India in thine eyes ; In the comers of 
thy mouth, Egypt hath set her love-signs. Perpol ! Turn 
not to that slave, fair mistress, before proving merciful to 
this one. Tell me at least that I am pardoned." 

At this point she broke in upon him. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 217 

" Wilt thou come here ?" she asked, smiling, and with 
gracious bend of the head to Ben-Uur. 

" Take the cup and fill it, I pray thee," she said to the 
latter. " My father is thirsty." 

" I am thy most willing servant !" 

Ben-Hur turned about to do the favor, and was face to 
face with Messala. Their glances met ; the Jew's defiant ; 
the Roman's sparkling with humor. 

" stranger, beautiful as cruel 1" Messala said, waving his 
hand to her. *^ If Apollo get thee not, thou shalt see me 
again. Not knowing thy country, I cannot name a god to 
commend thee to ; so, by all the gods, I will commend thee 
to — myself !" 

Seeing the Myrtilus had the four composed and ready, 
he retuimed to the chariot. The woman looked after him as 
he moved away, and whatever else there was in her look, 
there was no displeasure. Presently she received the water ; 
her father drank ; then she raised the cup to her lips, and, 
leaning down, gave it to Ben-Hur; never action more grace- 
ful and gracious. 

" Keep it, we pray of thee ! It is full of blessings — all 
thine 1" 

Immediately the camel was aroused, and on his feet, and 
about to go, when the old man called, 

" Stand thou here." 

Ben-Hur went to him respectfully. 

** Thou hast served the stranger well to-day. There is but 
one God. In his holy name I thank thee. I am Balthasar, 
the Egyptian. In the Great Orchard of Palms, beyond the 
village of Daphne, in the shade of the palms. Sheik Uderim 
the Generous abideth in his tents, and we are his guests. 
Seek us there. Thou shalt have welcome sweet with the sa- 
vor of the grateful." 

Ben-Hur was left in wonder at the old man's clear voice 
and reverend manner. As he gazed after the two departing, 
he caught sight of Messala going as ho had come, joyous, in- 
different, and with a mocking laugh. 



218 BEN-HUH; A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 



Chapter IX. 

As a rule, there is no surer way to the dislike of men 
than to behave well where they have behaved badly. In 
this instance, happily, Malluch was an exception to the rule. 
The affair he had just witnessed Taised Ben-Hur in his esti- 
mation, since he could not deny him courage and address ; 
could he now get some insight into the young man's history, 
the results of the day would not be all unprofitable to good 
master Simonides. 

On the latter point, referring to what he had as yet 
learned, two facts comprehended it all — the subject of his 
investigation was a Jew, and the adopted son of a famous 
Roman. Another conclusion which might be of importance 
was beginning to formulate itself in the shrewd mind of 
the emissary ; between Messala and the son of the duumvir 
there was a connection of some kind. But what was it? — and 
how could it be reduced to assurance? With all his sound- 
ing, the ways and means of solution were not at call. In 
the heat of the perplexity, Ben-Hur himself came to his 
help. He laid his hand on Malluch's arm and drew him out 
of the crowd, which was already going back to its interest in 
the gray old priest and the mystic fountain. 

" Good Malluch," he said, stopping, " may a man forget 
his mother ?" 

The question was abrupt and without direction, and there- 
fore of the kind which leaves the person addressed in a state 
of confusion. Malluch looked into Ben-Hur's face for a hint 
of meaning, but saw, instead, two bright-red spots, one on 
each cheek, and in his eyes traces of what might have been 
repressed tears ; then he answered, mechanically, ** No !" 
adding, with fervor, " never ;" and a moment after, when 
he began to recover himself, " If he is an Israelite, never !" 
And when at length he was completely recovered — "My 
first lesson in the synagogue was the Shema ; my next 
was the saying of the son of Sirach, * Honor thy father 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 219 

with thy whole soul, and forget not the sorrows of thy 
mother.' " 

The red spots on Ben-Hur*s face deepened. 

"The words bring my childhood back again; and, Mal- 
luch, they prove you a genuine Jew. I believe I can tnist 
you." 

Ben-Hur let go the arm he was holding, and caught the 
folds of the gown covering his own breast, and pressed 
them close, as if to smother a pain, or a feeling there as 
sharp as a pain. 

" My father," he said, " bore a good name, and was not 
without honor in Jerusalem, where he dwelt. My mother, 
at his death, was in the prime of womanhood ; and it is not 
enough to say of her she was good and beautiful : in her 
tongue was the law of kindness, and her works were the 
praise of all in the gates, and she smiled at days to come. 
I had a little sister, and she and I were the family, and we 
were so happy that I, at least, have never seen harm in the 
saying of the old rabbi, * God could not be everywhere, and, 
therefore, he made mothers.' One day an accident hap- 
pened to a Roman in authority as he was riding past our 
house at the head of a cohort ; the legionaries burst the gate 
and rushed in and seized us. I have not seen my mother or 
sister since. I cannot say they are dead or living. I do not 
know what became of them. But, Malluch, the man in the 
chariot yonder was present at the separation ; he gave us 
over to the captors ; he heard my mother's prayer for her 
children, and he laughed when they dragged her away. 
Hardly may one say which graves deepest in memory, love 
or hate. To-day I knew him afar — and, Malluch — " 

He caught the listener's arm again. 

** And, Malluch, he knows and takes with him now the 
secret I would give my life for : he could tell if she lives, 
and where she is, and her condition ; if she — no, they — 
much sorrow has made the two as one — if they are dead, 
he could tell where they died, and of what, and where their 
bones await my finding." 

"AndwiUhenot?" 

" No." 

"Why?" 



220 BEX-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 






I am a Jew, and he is a Roman." 
But Romans have tongues, and Jews, though ever so 
despised, have methods to beguile them." 

" For such as he ? No ; and, besides, the secret is one of 
state. All my father's property was confiscated and di- 
vided." 

Malluch nodded his head slowly, much as to admit the 
argument; then he asked anew, "Did he not recognize 
you ?" 

"He could not. I was sent to death in life, and have 
been long since accounted of the dead." 

" I wonder you did not strike him," said Malluch, yield- 
ing to a touch of passion. 

" That would have been to put him past serving me for- 
ever. I would have had to kill him, and Death, you know, 
keeps secrets better even than a guilty Roman." 

The man who, with so much to avenge, could so calmly 
put such an opportunity aside must be confident of his fut- 
ure or have ready some better design, and Malluch's inter- 
est changed with the thought ; it ceased to be that of an 
emissary in duty bound to another. Ben-Hur was actually 
asserting a claim upon him for his own sake. In other 
words, Malluch was preparing to serve him with good heart 
and from downright admiration. 

After brief pause, Ben-Hur resumed speaking. 

" I would not take his life, good Malluch ; against that 
extreme the possession of the secret is for the present, at 
least, his safeguard ; yet I may punish him, and so you give 
me help, I will try." 

" He is a Roman," said Malluch, without hesitation ; "and 
I am of the tribe of Judah. I will help you. If you choose, 
put me under oath — under the most solemn oath." 

*' Give me your hand, that will suflBce." 

As their hands fell apart, Ben-Hur said, with lightened 
feeling, "That I would charge you with is not diflBcult, good 
friend ; neither is it dreadful to conscience. Let us move 



on." 



They took the road which led to the right across the 
meadow spoken of in the description of the coming to the 
fountain. Ben-Hur was first to break the silence. 



BEN-HL'R: A TALE OF THE CHRIST, 221 

" Do you know Sheik Uderim the Generous 2" 

" Yes." 

" Where is his Orchard of Palms ? or, rather, Malluch, how 
far is it beyond the village of Daphne ?" 

Malluch was touched by a doubt ; he recalled the pretti- 
ness of the favor shown him by the woman at the fountain, 
and wondered if he who had the sorrows of a mother in 
mind was about to forget them for a lure of love ; yet he 
replied, " The Orchard of Palms lies beyond the village two 
hours by horse, and one by a swift camel." 

" Thank you ; and to your knowledge once more. Have 
the games of which you told me been widely published? 
and when will they take place ?" 

The questions were suggestive ; and if they did not re- 
store Malluch his confidence, ^they at least stimulated his 
curiosity. 

" Oh yes, they will be of ample splendor. The prefect is 
rich, and could afford to lose his place ; yet, as is the way 
with successful men, his love of riches is nowise diminished; 
and to gain a friend at court, if nothing more, he must 
make ado for the Consul Maxentius, who is coming hither 
to make final preparations for a campaign against the Par- 
thians. The money there is in the preparations the citizens 
of Antioch know from experience ; so they have had per- 
mission to join the prefect in the honors intended for the 
great man. A month ago heralds went to the four quar- 
ters to proclaim the opening of the Circus for the celebra- 
tion. The name of the prefect would be of itself good 
guarantee of variety and magnificence, particularly through- 
out the East ; but when to his promises Antioch joins hers, 
ail the islands and the cities by the sea stand assured of the 
extraordinary, and will be here in person or by their most 
famous professionals. The fees offered are royal." 

" And the Circus — I have heard it is second only to the 
Maximus." 

"At Rome, you mean. Well, ours seats two hundred 
thousand people, yours seats seventy-five thousand more; 
yours is of marble, so is ours ; in arrangement they are ex- 
actly the same." 

** Are the rules the same ?" 



222 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

MaUuch smiled. 

" If Antioch dared be original, son of Arrius, Rome wonld 
not be the mistress she is. The laws of the Circus Maxi- 
mus govern except in one particular : there but four char- 
iots may start at once, here all start without reference to 
number." 

" That is the practice of the Greeks," said Ben-Hur. 

" Yes, Antioch is more Greek than Roman." 

" So then, Malluch, I may choose my own chariot ?" 

"Your own chariot and horses. There is no restriction 
upon either." 

While replying, Malluch observed the thoughtful look on 
Ben-Hur's face give place to one of satisfaction. 

" One thing more now, Malluch. When will the cele- 
bration be?" 

" Ah ! your pardon," the other answered. " To-morrow 
— and the next day," he said, counting aloud, "then, to 
speak in the Roman style, if the sea-gods be propitious, the 
consul arrives. Yes, the sixth day from this we have the 
games." 

" The time is short, Malluch, but it is enough." The last 
words were spoken decisively. " By the prophets of our 
old Israel 1 I will take to the reins again. Stay ! a condi- 
tion ; is there assurance that Messala will be a competitor f 

Malluch saw now the plan, and all its opportunities for 
the humiliation of the Roman ; and he had not been true 
descendant of Jacob if, with all his interest wakened, he had 
not rushed to a consideration of the chances. His voice 
actually trembled as he said, " Have you the practice I" 

" Fear not, my friend. The winnere in the Circus Maximus 
have held their crowns these three years at my will. Ask 
them — ask the best of them, and they will tell you so. In 
the last great games the emperor himself offered me his 
patronage if I would take his horses in hand and run them 
against the entries of the world." 

"But you did not?" 

Malluch spoke eagerly. 

"I — I am a Jew" — Ben-Hur seemed shrinking within 
himself as he spoke — " and, though I wear a Roman name, 
I dared not do professionally a thing to sully my father^s 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 223 

name in the cloisters and courts of the Temple. In the 
palaestra) I could indulge practice which, if followed into the 
Circus, would become an abomination ; and if I take to the 
course here, Malluch, I swear it will not be for the prize or 
the winner's fee." 

*' Hold — swear not so I" cried Malluch. " The fee is ten 
thousand sestertii — a fortune for life 1" 

" Not for me, though the prefect trebled it fifty times. 
Better than that, better than all the imperial revenues from 
the first year of the first Cajsar — I will make this race 
to humble my enemy. Vengeance is permitted by the 
law." 

Malluch smiled and nodded as if saying, " Right, right — 
trust mo a Jew to understand a Jew." 

"The Messala will drive," he said, directly. " He is com- 
mitted to the race in many ways — by publication in the 
streets, and in the baths and theatres, the palace and bar- 
racks ; and, to fix him past retreat, his name is on the tab- 
lets of every young spendthrift in Antioch." 

" In wager, Malluch ?" 

" Yes, in wager ; and every day he comes ostentatiously 
to practise, as you saw him." 

" Ah I and that is the chariot, and those the horses, with 
which he will make the race ? Thank you, thank you, Mal- 
luch 1 You have served mo well already. I am satisfied. 
Now be my guide to the Orchard of Palms, and give me 
introduction to Sheik Ilderim the Generous." 

" When ?" 

" To-day. His horses may be engaged to-morrow." 

" You like them, then ?" 

Ben-Hur answered with animation, 

"I saw them from the stand an instant only, for Messala 
then drove up, and I might not look at anything else ; yet 
I recognized them as of the blood which is the wonder as 
well as the glory of the deserts. I never saw the kind be- 
fore, except in the stables of Csesar ; but once seen, they are 
always to be known. To-morrow, upon meeting, I will 
know you, Malluch, though you do not so much as salute 
me ; I will know you by your face, by your form, by your 
manner ; and by the same signs I will know them, and with 



224 BEN-HUR ; A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

the same certainty. If all that is said of tbem be trne, and 
I can bring their spirit under control of mine, I can — ^" 

" Win the sestertii !" said Malluch, laughing. 

" No," answered Ben-Hur, as quickly. " I will do what 
better becomes a man bom to the heritage of Jacob — I will 
humble mine enemy in a most public place. But," he add- 
ed, impatiently, " we are losing time. How can we most 
quickly reach the tents of the sheik ?" 

Malluch took a moment for reflection. 

" It is best we go straight to the village, which is fortu- 
nately near by ; if two swift camels are to be had for hire 
there, we will be on the road but an hour." 

" Let us about it, then." 

The village was an assemblage of palaces in beautiful gar- 
dens, interspersed with khans of princely sort Dromeda- 
ries were happily secured, and upon them the journey to the 
famous Orchard of Palms was begun. 



Chapter X. 

Beyond the village the country was undulating and cul- 
tivated ; in fact, it was the garden-land of Antioch, with not 
a foot lost to labor. The steep faces of the hills were ter- 
raced; even the hedges were brighter of the trailing vines 
which, besides the lure of shade, offered passers-by sweet 
promises of wine to come, and grapes in clustered purple 
ripeness. Over melon-patches, and through apricot and 
flg-tree groves, and groves of oranges and limes, the white- 
washed houses of the farmers were seen ; and everywhere 
Plenty, the smiling daughter of Peace, gave notice by her 
thousand signs that she was at home, making the generous 
traveller merry at heart, until he was even disposed to give 
Rome her dues. Occasionally, also, views were had of Tau- 
rus and Lebanon, between which, a separating line of silver, 
the Orontes placidly pursued its way. 

In course of their journey the friends came to the river, 
which they followed with the windings of the road, now 
over bold bluffs, and then into vales, all alike allotted for 
country-seats ; and if the land was in full foliage of oak 



BEN.HUR: A TALE OF THE CimiSr. 225 

and sycamoro and myrtle, and bay and arbutus, and per- 
fuming jasmine, the river was bright with slanted sunlight, 
which would have slept where it fell but for ships in endless 
procession, gliding with the current, tacking for the wind, 
or bounding under the impulse of oars — some coming, some 
going, and all suggestive of the sea, and distant peoples, 
and famous places, and things coveted on account of their 
rarity. To the fancy there is nothing so winsome as a 
white sail seaward blown, unless it be a white sail home- 
ward bound, its voyage happily done. And down the shore 
the friends went continuously till they came to a lake fed 
by back-water from the river, clear, deep, and without cur- 
rent. An old palm-tree dominated the angle of the inlet ; 
turning to the left at the foot of the tree, Malluch clapped 
his hands and shouted, 

" Look, look I The Orchard of Palms 1" 

The scene was nowhere else to be found unless in the 
favored oases of Arabia or the Ftolcmeean farms along the 
Nile ; and to sustain a sensation new as it was delightful, 
Ben-Hur was admitted into a tract of land apparently with- 
out limit and level as a floor. All under foot was fresh 
grass, in Syria the rarest and most beautiful production of 
the soil ; if he looked up, it was to see the sky palely blue 
through the groinery of countless date-bearers, very patri- 
archs of their Kind, so numerous and old, and of such mighty 
girth, so tall, so serried, so wide of branch, each branch so 
perfect with fronds, plumy and wax -like and brilliant, 
they seemed enchanters enchanted. Here was the grass 
coloring the very atmosphere; there the lake, cool and 
clear, rippling but a few feet under the surface, and help- 
ing the trees to their long life in old age. Did the Grove 
of Daphne excel this one ? And the palms, as if they knew 
Ben-Hur's thought, and would win him after a way of their 
own, seemed, as he passed under their arches, to stir and 
sprinkle him with dewy coolness. 

The road wound in close parallelism with the shore of 
the lake; and when it carried the travellers down to the wa- 
ter^s edge, there was always on that side a shining expanse 
limited not far off by the opposite shore, on which, as on 
this one, no tree but the palm was permitted. 
15 



226 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

" See that," said Malluch, pointing to a giant of the place. 
" Each ring upon its trunk marks a year of its life. Count 
them from root to branch, and if the sheik tells you the 
grove was planted before the Seleucidse were heard of in 
Antioch, do not doubt him." 

One may not look at a perfect palm-tree but that, with a 
subtlety all its own, it assumes a presence for itself, and 
makes a poet of the beholder. This is the explanation of 
the honors it has received, beginning with the artists of the 
first kings, who could find no form in all the earth to serve 
them so well as a model for the pillars of their palaces and 
temples ; and for the same reason Ben-Hur was moved to say, 

^* As I saw him at the stand to-day, good Malluch, Sheik 
Ilderim appeared to be a very common man. The rabbis 
in Jerusalem would look down upon him, I fear, as a son of 
a dog of Edom. How came he in possession of the Or- 
chard? And how has he been able to hold it against the 
greed of Roman governors ?" 

"If blood derives excellence from time, son of Arrias, 
then is old Uderim a man, though he be an uncircumcised 
Edomite." 

Malluch spoke warmly. 

" All his fathers before him were sheiks. One of them 
— ^I shall not say when he lived or did the good deed — once 
helped a king who was being hunted with swords. The 
story says he loaned him a thousand horsemen, who knew 
the paths of the wilderness and its hiding-places as shep- 
herds know the scant hills they inhabit with their flocks; 
and they carried him here and there until the opportunity 
came, and then with their spears they slew the enemy, and 
set him upon his throne again. And the king, it is said, 
remembered the service, and brought the son of the Desert 
to this place, and bade him set up his tent and bring his 
family and his herds, for the lake and trees, and all the 
land from the river to the nearest mountains, were his and 
his children's forever. And they have never been disturbed 
in the possession. The rulers succeeding have found it pol- 
icy to keep good terms with the tribe, to whom the Lord 
has given increase of men and horses, and camels and riches, 
making them masters of many highways between cities ; so 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 227 

that it is with tbem any time they please to say to com- 
merce, * Go in peace,' or * Stop,' and what they say shall be 
done. Even the prefect in the citadel overlooking Antioch 
thinks it happy day with him when Ilderim, surnamed the 
Generons on account of good deeds done unto all man- 
ner of men, with his wives and children, and his trains of 
camels and horses, and his belongings of sheik, moving as 
our fathers Abraham and Jacob moved, comes up to ex- 
change briefly his bitter wells for the pleasantness you see 
about us." 

" How is it, then 1" said Ben-Hur, who had been listening 
unmindful of the slow gait of the dromedaries. "I saw 
the sheik tear his beard while he cursed himself that he had 
put trust in a Roman. Osesar, had he heard him, might 
have said, * I like not such a friend as this ; put him away.' " 

"It would be but shrewd judgment," Malluch replied, 
smiling. " Ilderim is not a lover of Rome ; he has a griev- 
ance. Three years ago the Parthians rode across the road 
from Bozra to Damascus, and fell upon a caravan laden, 
among other things, with the incoming tax-returns of a dis- 
trict over that way. They slew every creature taken, which 
the censors in Rome could have forgiven if the imperial 
treasure had been spared and forwarded. The farmers of 
the taxes, being chargeable with the loss, complained to Cae- 
sar, and Caesar held Herod to payment, and Herod, on his 
part, seized property of Ilderim, whom he charged with 
treasonable neglect of duty. The sheik appealed to Caesar, 
and Caesar has made him such answer as might be looked 
for from the unwinking sphinx. The old man's heart has 
been aching sore ever since, and he nurses his wrath, and 
takes pleasure in its daily growth." 

" He can do nothing, Malluch." 

"Well," said Malluch, "that involves another explana- 
tion, which I will give you, if we can draw nearer. But seel 
— the hospitality of the sheik begins early — the children 
are speaking to you." 

The dromedaries stopped, and Ben-Hur looked down 
upon some little girls of the Syrian peasant class, who were 
offering him their baskets filled with dates. The fruit was 
freshly gathered, and not to be refused; he stooped and 



228 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

took it, and as he did so a man in the tree by which they 
were halted cried, " Peace to you, and welcome !" 

Their thanks said to the children, the friends moved on 
at such gait as the animals chose. 

" You must know," Malluch continued, pausing now and 
then to dispose of a date, " that the merchant Simonides 
gives me his confidence, and sometimes flatters me by tak- 
ing me into council ; and as I attend him at his house, I 
have made acquaintance with many of his friends, who, 
knowing my footing with the host, talk to him freely in 
my presence. In that way I became somewhat intimate 
with Sheik Ilderim." 

For a moment Ben-Hur's attention wandered. Before 
his mind's eye there arose the image, pure, gentle, and ap- 
pealing, of Esther, the merchant's daughter. Her dark eyes 
bright with the peculiar Jewish lustre met his in modest 
gaze ; he heard her step as when she approached him with 
the wine, and her voice as she tendered him the cup; and 
he acknowledged to himself again all the sympathy she 
manifested for him, and manifested so plainly that words 
were unnecessary, and so sweetly that words would have 
been but a detraction. The vision was exceeding pleasant, 
but upon his turning to Malluch, it flew away. 

" A few weeks ago," said Malluch, continuing, " the old 
Arab called on Simonides, and found me present. I ob- 
served he seemed much moved about something, and, in def- 
erence, offered to withdraw, but he himself forbade me. 
* As you are an Israelite,' he said, * stay, for I have a strange 
story to tell.' The emphasis on the word Israelite excited 
my curiosity. I remained, and this is in substance his story 
— I cut it short because we are drawing nigh the tent, and 
I leave the details to the good man himself. A good many 
years ago, three men called at Ilderim's tent out in the wil- 
derness. They were all foreigners, a Hindoo, a Greek, and 
an Egyptian ; and they had come on camels, the largest he 
had ever seen, and all white. He welcomed them, and gave 
them rest. Next morning they arose and prayed a prayer 
new to the sheik — a prayer addressed to God and his son — 
this with much mystery besides. After breaking fast with 
him, the Egyptian told who they were, and whence they had 



BEN-nUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 229 

come. Each had seen a star, out of which a voice had bidden 
them go to Jerusalem and ask, * Where is ho that is born 
King of the Jews V They obeyed. From Jerusalem they 
were led by a star to Bethlehem, where, in a cave, they 
found a child newly born, which they fell down and wor- 
shipped ; and after worshipping it, and giving it costly pres- 
ents, and bearing witness of what it was, they took to their 
camels, and fled without pause to the sheik, because if Her- 
od — meaning him surnamed the Great — could lay hands 
upon them, he would certainly kill them. And, faithful to 
his habit, the sheik took care of them, and kept them con- 
cealed for a year, when they departed, leaving with him 
gifts of great value, and each going a separate way." 

"It is, indeed, a most wonderful story," Ben- Hur ex- 
claimed at its conclusion. " What did you say they were 
to ask at Jerusalem ?" 

" They were to ask, * Where is ho that is born King of 
the Jews V " 

" Was that all ?" 

" There was more to the question, but I cannot recall it." 

** And they found the child ?" 

" Yes, and worshipped him." 

" It is a miracle, Malluch." 

" Uderim is a grave man, though excitable as all Arabs 
are. A lie on his tongue is impossible." 

Malluch spoke positively. Thereupon the dromedaries 
were forgotten, and, quite as unmindful of their riders, they 
turned off the road to the growing grass. 

" Has Uderim nothing more of the three men ?" asked 
Ben-Hur. " What became of them ?" 

"Ah, yes, that was the cause of his coming to Simonides 
the day of which I was speaking. Only the night before 
that day the Egyptian reappeared to him." 

" Where ?" 

" Here at the door of the tent to which we are coming," 

" How knew he the man ?" 

" As you knew the horses to-day — by face and manner." 

" By nothing else ?" 

" He rode the same great white camel, and gave him the 
same name — Balthasar, the Egyptian." 



230 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

** It is a wonder of tlie Lord's !" 

Ben-Hur spoke with excitement. 

And Malluch, wondering, asked, " Why so ?" 

** Balthasar, you said ?" 

" Yes. Balthasar, the Egyptian." 

^' That was the name the old man gave us at the fountain 
to-day." 

Then, at the reminder, Malluch became excited. 

" It is trae," he said ; " and the camel was the same — and 
you saved the man's life." 

" And the woman," said Ben-Hur, like one speaking to 
himself — " the woman was his daughter." 

He fell to thinking ; and even the reader will say he was 
having a vision of the woman, and that it was more welcome 
than that of Esther, if only because it stayed longer with 
him ; but no — 

" Tell me again," he said, presently. " Were the three to 
ask, * Where is he that is to be King of the Jews V " 

" Not exactly. The words were born to be King of the 
Jews. Those were the words as the old sheik caught them 
first in the desert, and he has ever since been waiting the 
coming of the king; nor can any one shake his faith that 
he will come." 

" How— as king ?" 

"Yes, and bringing the doom of Rome — so says the 
sheik." 

Ben-Hur kept silent awhile, thinking and trying to con- 
trol his feelings. 

" The old man is one of many millions," he said, slowly 
— " one of many millions each with a wrong to avenge ; and 
this strange faith, Malluch, is bread and wine to his hope ; 
for who but a Herod may be King of the Jews while Rome 
endures ? Bat, following the story, did you hear what Si- 
mon ides said to him ?" 

" If Ilderira is a grave man, Simonides is a wise one," 
Malluch replied. "I listened, and he said — But hark! 
Some one comes overtaking us." 

The noise grew louder, until presently they heard the 
rumble of wheels mixed with the beating of horse-hoofs — 
a moment later Sheik Ilderim himself appeared on horse- 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 231 

back, followed by a train, among which were the four wine- 
red Arabs drawing the chariot. The sheik's chin, in its 
muffling of long white beard, was drooped upon his breast. 
Our friends had out-travelled him ; but at sight of them, he 
raised his head, and spoke kindly. 

" Peace to you ! — Ah, my friend Malluch ! Welcome ! 
And tell me you are not going, but just come ; that you have 
something for me from the good Simonides — may the Lord 
of his fathers keep him in life for many years to come ! 
Ay, take up the straps, both of you, and follow me. I have 
bread and leben, or, if you prefer it, arrack, and the flesh 
of young kid. Come !" 

They followed after him to the door of the tent, in which, 
when they were dismounted, he stood to receive them, hold- 
ing a platter with three cups filled with creamy liquor just 
drawn from a great smoke-stained skin bottle, pendent from 
the central post. 

" Drink," he said, heartily, " drink, for this is the fear- 
naught of the tentmen." 

They each took a cup, and drank till but the foam re- 
mained. 

" Enter now, in God's name.'* 

And when they were gone in, Malluch took the sheik 
aside, and spoke to him privately ; after which he went to 
Ben-Hur and excused himself. 

" I have told the sheik about you, and he will give you 
the trial of his horses in the morning. He is your friend. 
Having done for you all I can, you must do the ijest, and 
let me return to Antioch. There is one there who has my 
promise to meet him to-night. I have no choice but to go. 
I will come back to-morrow prepared, if all goes well in the 
meantime, to stay with you until the games are over. 

With blessings given and received, Malluch set out in re- 
turn. 



232 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 



Chapter XL 

What time the lower horn of a new moon touched the 
castellated piles on Mount Solpias, and two thirds of the 
people of Antioch were out on their house-tops comforting 
themselves with the night breeze when it blew, and with 
fans when it failed, Simonides sat in the chair which had 
come to be a part of him, and from the terrace looked down 
over the river, and his ships a-swing at their moorings. The 
wall at his back cast its shadow broadly over the water to 
the opposite shore. Above him the endless tramp upon the 
bridge went on. Esther was holding a plate for him con- 
taining his frugal supper — some wheaten cakes light as 
wafers, some honey, and a bowl of milk, into which he now 
and then dipped the wafers after dipping them into the 
honey. 

" Malluch is a laggard to-night," he said, showing where 
his thoughts were. 

" Do you believe he will come ?" Esther asked. 

'^ Unless he has taken to the sea or the desert, and is yet 
following on, he will come." 

Simonides spoke with quiet confidence. 

" He may write," she said. 

" Not so, Esther. He would have despatched a letter 
when he found he could not return, and told me so ; be- 
cause I have not received such a letter, I know he can come, 
and will." 

" I hope so," she said, very softly. 

Something in the utterance attracted his attention; it 
might have been the tone, it might have been the wish. 
The smallest bird cannot light upon the greatest tree with- 
out sending a shock to its most distant fibre; every mind 
is at times no less sensitive to the most trifling words. 

" You wish him to come, Esther ?" he asked. 
Yes," she said, lifting her eyes to his. 
Whj? Can you tell me?" he persisted. 



it 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 233 

" Because " — she hesitated, then began again — " because 
the young man is — " The stop was full. 

" Our master. Is that the word ?" 

" Yes." 

" And you still think I should not suffer him to go away 
without telling him to come, if he chooses, and take us— 
and all we have — all, Esther — the goods, the shekels, the 
ships, the slaves, and the mighty credit, which is a mantle 
of cloth of gold and finest silver spun for me by the great- 
est of the angels of men — Success.'' 

She made no answer. 

" Does that move you nothing ? No V he said, with the 
slightest taint of bitterness. "Well, well, I have found, 
Esther, the worst reality is never imendurable when it comes 
out from behind the clouds through which we at first see it 
darkly — ^never — not even the rack. I suppose it will be so 
with death. And by that philosophy the slavery to which 
we are going must afterwhile become sweet. It pleases me 
even now to think what a favored man our master is. The 
fortune cost him nothing — not an anxiety, not a drop of 
sweat, not so much as a thought ; it attaches to him un- 
dreamed of, and in his youth. And, Esther, let me waste a 
little vanity with the reflection ; he gets what he could not 
go into the market and buy with all the pelf in a sum — 
thee, my child, my darling ; thou blossom from the tomb of 
my lost Rachel !" 

He drew her to him, and kissed her twice — once for her- 
self, once for her mother. 

" Say not so," she said, when his hand fell from her neck. 
" Let us think better of him ; he knows what sorrow is, and 
will set us free." 

" Ah, thy instincts are fine, Esther ; and thou knowest I 
lean upon them in doubtful cases where good or bad is to 
be pronounced of a person standing before thee as he stood 
this morning. But — ^but " — his voice rose and hardened — 
" these limbs upon which I cannot stand — this body drawn 
and beaten out of human shape — ^they are not all I bring him 
of myself. Oh no, no ! I bring him a soul which has tri- 
umphed over torture and Roman malice keener than any 
torture — I bring him a mind which has eyes to see gold at 



234 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

a distance farther than the ships of Solomon sailed, and 
power to bring it to hand — ay, Esther, into my palm here 
for the fingers to grip and keep lest it take wings at some 
other's word — a mind skilled at scheming" — he stopped 
and laughed — " Why, Esther, before the new moon which 
in the courts of the Temple on the Holy Hill they are this 
moment celebrating passes into its next quartering I could 
ring the world so as to startle even CsBsar ; for know you, 
child, I have that faculty which is better than any one sense, 
better than a perfect body, better than courage and will, 
better than experience, ordinarily the best product of the 
longest lives — the faculty divinest of men, but which " — he 
stopped, and laughed again, not bitterly, but with real zest 
— '* but which even the great do not sufficiently account, 
while with the herd it is a non-existent — the faculty of 
drawing men to my purpose and holding them faithfully to 
its achievement, by which, as against things to be done, I 
multiply myself into hundreds and thousands. So the cap- 
tains of my ships plough the seas, and bring me honest re- 
turns ; so Malluch follows the youth, our master, and will " 
— ^just then a footstep was heard upon the terrace — " Ha, 
Esther ! said I not so ? He is here — ^and we will have tid- 
ings. For thy sake, sweet child — my lily just budded — I 
pray the Lord God, who has not forgotten his wandering 
sheep of Israel, that they be good and comforting. Now 
we will know if he will let thee go with all thy beauty, and 
me with all my faculties." 

Malluch came to the chair. 

" Peace to you, good master," he said, with a low obei- 
sance — ** and to you, Esther, most excellent of daughters." 

He stood before them deferentially, and the attitude and 
the address left it difficult to define his relation to them ; 
the one was that of a servant, the other indicated the famil- 
iar and friend. On the other side, Simonides, as was his 
habit in business, after answering the salutation went straight 
to the subject. 

" What of the young man, Malluch ?" 

The events of the day were told quietly and in the sim- 
plest words, and until he was through there was no inter- 
ruption ; nor did the listener in the chair so much as move 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 236 

a hand during the narration ; but for his eyes, wide open 
and bright, and an occasional long-drawn breath, he might 
have been accounted an effigy. 

"Thank you, thank you, Malluch," he said, heartily, at 
the conclusion ; " you have done well — no one could have 
done better. Now what say you of the young man's na- 
tionality ?" 

" He is an Israelite, good master, and of the tribe of 
Judah." 

" You are positive^" 

" Very positive." 

" He appears to have told you but little of his life." 

" He has somewhere learned to be prudent. I might call 
him distrustful. He baffied all my attempts upon his con- 
fidence until we started from the Castalian fount going to 
the village of Daphne." 

"A place of abomination ! Why went he there?" 

" I would say from curiosity, the first motive of the many 
who go ; but, very strangely, he took no interest in the things 
he saw. Of the Temple, ho merely asked if it were Grecian. 
Good master, the young man has a trouble of mind from 
which he would hide, and he went to the Grove, I think, as 
we go to sepulchres with our dead — he went to bury it" 

" That were well, if so," Simonides said, in a low voice ; 
then louder, " Malluch, the curse of the time is prodigality. 
The poor make themselves poorer as apes of the rich, and 
the merely rich carry themselves like princes. Saw you 
signs of the weakness in the youth ? Did he display moneys 
— coin of Rome or Israel ?" 

" None, none, good master." 

" Surely, Malluch, where there are so many inducements 
to folly — so much, I mean, to eat and drink — surely he 
made you generous offer of some sort. His age, if nothing 
more, would warrant that much." 

" He neither ate nor drank in my company," 

" In what he said or did, Malluch, could you in anywise 
detect his master-idea ? You know they peep through cracks 
close enough to stop the wind." 

" Give me to understand you," said Malluch, in doubt. 

" Well, you know wo nor speak nor act, much less decide 



236 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

grave questions concerning ourselves, except we be driven 
by a motive. In that respect, what made you of him ?" 

" As to that, Master Simonides, I can answer with much 
assurance. He is devoted to finding his mother and sister 
— that first. Then he has a grievance against Rome ; and 
as the Messala of whom I told you had something to do 
with the wrong, the great present object is to humiliate 
him. The meeting at the fountain furnished an opportu- 
nity, but it was put aside as not sufficiently public." 

"The Messala is influential," saidi Simonides, thought- 
fully. 

" Yes ; but the next meeting will be in the Circus." 

" Well— and then ?" 

" The son of Arrius will win." 

" How know you ?" 

Malluch smiled. 

" I am judging by what he says." 

" Is that all r 

" No ; there is a much better sign — his spirit" 

" Ay ; but, Malluch, his idea of vengeance — what is its 
scope? Does he limit it to the few who did him the 
wrong, or does he take in the many? And more — is his 
feeling but the vagary of a sensitive boy, or has it the sea- 
soning of suffering manhood to give it endurance ? You 
know, Malluch, the vengeful thought that has root merely 
in the mind is but a dream of idlest sort which one clear 
day will dissipate ; while revenge the passion is a disease of 
the heart which climbs up, up to the brain, and feeds itself 
on both alike." 

In this question, Simonides for the first time showed 
signs of feeling ; he spoke with rapid utterance, and with 
clenched hands and the eagerness of a man illustrating the 
disease he described. 

" Good my master," Malluch replied, " one of my reasons 
for believing the young man a Jew is the intensity of his 
hate. It was plain to me he had himself under watch, as 
was natural, seeing how long he has lived in an atmosphere 
of Roman jealousy; yet I saw it blaze — once when be 
wanted to know Ilderim's feeling towards Rome, and again 
fvLen I told him the story of the sheik and the wise man, 



BEN-flUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 237 

and spoke of the question, * Where is he that is bom King 
of the Jews V " 

Simonides leaned forward quickly. 

"Ah, Malluch, his words — give me his words; let me 
judge the impression the mystery made upon him." 

" He wanted to know the exact words. Were they to be 
or bom to be? It appeared he was struck by a seeming 
difference in the effect of the two phrases." 

Simonides settled back into his pose of listening judge. 

** Then," said Malluch, " I told him Ilderim's view of the 
mystery — that the king would come with the doom of Rome. 
The young man's blood rose over his cheeks and forehead, 
and he said earnestly, * Who but a Herod can be king while 
Rome endures?'" 

" Meaning what ?" 

" That the empire must be destroyed before there could 
be another rule." 

Simonides gazed for a time at the ships and their shadows 
slowly swinging together in the river ; when he looked up, 
it was to end the interview. 

*' Enough, Malluch," he said. " Get you to eat, and make 
ready to return to the Orchard of Palms ; you must help 
the young man in his coming trial. Come to me in the 
morning. I will send a letter to Ilderim." Then in an un- 
dertone, as if to himself, he added, " I may attend the Circus 
myself." 

When Malluch after the customary benediction given and 
received was gone, Simonides took a deep draught of milk, 
and seemed refreshed and easy of mind. 

" Put the meal down, Esther," he said ; " it is over," 

She obeyed. 

" Here now." 

She resumed her place upon the arm of the chair close to 
him. 

"God is good to me, very good," he said, fervently. 
" His habit is to move in mystery, yet sometimes he per- 
mits us to think we see and understand him. I am old, 
dear, and must go ; but now, in this eleventh hour, when my 
hope was beginning to die, he sends me this one with a 
promise, and I am lifted up. I see the way to a great part 



238 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

in a circumstance itself so great that it shall be as a new 
birth to the whole world. And I see a reason for the gift 
of my great riches, and the end for which they were de- 
signed. Verily, my child, I take hold on life anew." 

Esther nestled closer to him, as if to bring his thoughts 
from their far-Hying. 

" The king has been bom," he continued, imagining he 
was still speaking to her, " and he must be near the half of 
common life. Balthasar says he was a child on his mother's 
lap when he saw him, and gave him presents and worship ; 
and nderim holds it was twenty-seven years ago last De- 
cember when Balthasar and his companions came to his 
tent asking a hiding-place from Herod. Wherefore the 
coming cannot now be long delayed. To-night — to-mor- 
row it may be. Holy fathers of Israel, what happiness in the 
thought ! I seem to hear the crash of the falling of old 
walls and the clamor of a universal change — ay, and for 
the uttermost joy of men, the earth opens to take Rome in, 
and they look up and laugh and sing that she is not, while 
we are ;" then he laughed at himself. " Why, Esther, 
heard you ever the like ? Surely, I have on me the passion 
of a singer, the heat of blood and the thrill of Miriam and 
David. In my thoughts, which should be those of a plain 
worker in figures and facts, there is a confusion of cymbals 
clashing and harp-strings loud beaten, and the voices of a 
multitude standing around a new-risen throne. I will put 
the thinking by for the present ; only, dear, when the king 
comes he will need money and men, for as he was a child 
bom of woman he will be but a man after all, bound to hu- 
man ways as you and I are. And for the money he will 
have need of getters and keepers, and for the men leaders. 
There, there ! See you not a broad road for my walking, 
and the running of the youth our master? — and at the end 
of it fflorv and revenge for us both? — and — and" — ^he 
paused, struck with the selfishness of a scheme in which she 
had no part or good result ; then added, kissing her, " And 
happiness for thy mother's child." 

She sat still, savinjj nothinij. Then he remembered the 
difference in natures, and the law by which we are not per- 
mitted always to take delight in the same cause or be equal* 



BfiN.HUB: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 239 

ly afraid of the same thing. He remembered she was but 
a girl. 

" Of what are you thinking, Esther ?" he said, in his com- 
mon home-like way. " If the thought have the form of a 
wish, give it me, little one, while the power remains mine. 
For power, you know, is a fretful thing, and hath its wings 
always spread for flight." 

She answered with a simplicity almost childish, 

" Send for him, father. Send for him to-night, and do 
not let him go into the Circus." 

" Ah 1" he said, prolonging the exclamation ; and again 
his eyes fell upon the river, where the shadows were more 
shadowy than ever, since the moon had sunk far down be- 
hind Sulpius, leaving the city to the ineffectual stars. Shall 
we say it, reader ? He was touched by a twinge of jealousy. 
If she should really love the young master ! Oh no ! That 
could not be ; she was too young. But the idea had fast 
grip, and directly held him still and cold. She was sixteen. 
He knew it well. On the last natal day he had gone with 
her to the shipyard where there was a launch, and the yel- 
low flag which the galley bore to its bridal with the waves 
had on it " Esther ;" so they celebrated the day together. 
Yet the fact struck him now with the force of a surprise. 
There are realizations which come to us all painfully ; most- 
ly^ however, such as pertain to ourselves ; that we are grow- 
ing old, for instance ; and, more terrible, that we must die. 
Such a one crept into his heart, shadowy as the shadows, 
yet substantial enough to wring from him a sigh which was 
almost a groan. It was not sufficient that she should enter 
upon her young womanhood a servant, but she must carry to 
her master her affections, the truth and tenderness and del- 
icacy of which he the father so well knew, because to this 
time they had all been his own undividedly. The fiend 
whose task it is to torture us with fears and bitter thoughts 
seldom does his work by halves. In the pang of the mo- 
ment, the brave old man lost sight of his new scheme, and 
of the miraculous king its subject. By a mighty effort, 
however, he controlled himself, and asked, calmly, " Not go 
into the Circus, Esther ? Why, child ?" 

'^ It is not a place for a son of Israel, father." 



240 BEx\-HUK : A TALE OF THE CHJUST. 

" Rabbinical, rabbinical, Esther ! Is that all ?" 

The tone of the inquiry was searching, and went to her 
heart, which began to beat loudly — so loudly she could not 
answer. A confusion new and strangely pleasant fell upon 
her. 

" The young man is to have the fortune," he said, taking 
her hand, and speaking more tenderly ; " he is to have the 
ships and the shekels — all, Esther, all. Yet I did not feel 
poor, for thou wert left me, and thy love so like the dead 
Rachers. Tell me, is he to have that too ?" 

She bent over him, and laid her cheek against his head. 

** Speak, Esther. I will be the stronger of the knowl- 
edge. In warning there is strength." 

She sat up then, and spoke as if she were Truth's holy self. 

" Comfort thee, father. I will never leave thee ; though 
he take my love, I will be thy handmaid ever as now." 

And, stooping, she kissed him. 

"And more," she said, continuing: "he is comely in 
my sight, and the pleading of his voice drew me to him, and 
I shudder to think of him in danger. Yes, father, I would 
be more than glad to see him again. Still, the love that is 
unrequited cannot be perfect love, wherefore I will wait a 
time, remembering I am thy daughter and my mother's." 

"A very blessing of the Lord art thou, Esther ! A bless- 
ing to keep me rich, though all else be lost. And by his 
holy name and everlasting life, I swear thou shalt not suffer." 

At his request, a little later, the servant came and rolled 
the chair into the room, where he sat for a time thinking of 
the coming of the king, while she went off and slept the 
sleep of the innocent. 



Chapter XIL 

The palace across the river nearly opposite Simonides' 
place is said to have been completed by the famous Epiph- 
anes, and was all such a habitation can be imagined ; though 
he was a builder whose taste ran to the immense rather 
than the classical, now so called — an architectural imitator, 
in other words, of the Persians instead of the Greeks. 



BEX-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 241 

The wall enclosing the whole island to the water's ed^e, 
and built for the double purpose of bulwark against tne 
river and defence against the mob, was said to have render- 
ed the palace unfit for constant occupancy, insomuch that 
the legates abandoned it and moved to another residence 
erected for them on the western ridge of Mount Sulpius, 
under the Temple of Jupiter. Persons were not wanting, 
however, who flatly denied the bill against the ancient abode. 
They said, with shrewdness at least, that the real object of 
the removal of the legates was not a more healthful local- 
ity, but the assurance afforded them by the huge barracks, 
named, according to the prevalent style, citadel, situated 
just over the way on the eastern ridge of the mount. And 
the opinion had plausible showing. Among other perti- 
nent things, it was remarked that the palace was kept in 
perpetual readiness for use ; and when a consul, general of 
the army, king, or visiting potentate of any Idnd arrived 
at Antioch, quarters were at once assigned him on the isl- 
and. 

As we have to do with but one apartment in the old pile, 
the residue of it is left to the reader's fancy ; and as pleases 
him, he may go through its gardens, baths, halls, and laby- 
rinth of rooms to the pavilions on the roof, all furnished as 
became a house of fame in a city which was more nearly 
Milton's "gorgeous East" than any other in the world. 

At this age the apartment alluded to would be termed a 
saloon. It was quite spacious, floored with polished marble 
slabs, and lighted in the day by skylights in which colored 
mica served as glass. The walls were broken by Atlantes, 
no two of which were alike, but all supporting a cornice 
wrought with arabasques exceedingly intricate in form, and 
more elegant on account of superadditions of color — blue, 
green, Tyrian purple, and gold. Around the room ran a 
continuous divan of Indian silks and wool of Cashmere. 
The furniture consisted of tables and stools of Egyptian 
patterns grotesquely carved. "We have left Simonides in 
his chair perfecting his scheme in aid of the miraculous 
king, whose coming he has decided is so close at hand. 
Esther is asleep ; and now, having crossed the river by the 
bridge, and made way through the lion-guarded gate and a 



242 BEN-HUE: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

number of Babylonian halls and conrts, let us enter the 
gilded saloon. 

There are five chandeliers hanging by sliding bronze chains 
from the ceiling—one in each comer, and in the centre one — 
enormous pyramids of lighted lamps, illuminating even the 
demoniac faces of the Atlantes and the complex tracery of 
the cornice. About the tables, seated or standing, or mov- 
ing restlessly from one to another, there are probably a hun- 
dred persons, whom we must study at least for a moment. 

They are all young, some of them little more than boys. 
That they are Italians and mostly Romans is past doubt. 
They all speak Latin in purity, while each one appears in 
the indoor dress of the great capital on the Tiber ; that is, 
in tunics short of sleeve and skirt, a style of vesture well 
adapted to the climate of Antioch, and especially comfort- 
able in the too close atmosphere of the saloon. On the di- 
van here and there togas and lacemse lie where they have 
been carelessly tossed, some of them significantly bordered 
with purple. On the divan also lie sleepers stretched at ease ; 
whether they were overcome by the heat and fatigue of the 
sultry day or by Bacchus we will not pause to inquire. 

The hum of voices is loud and incessant. Sometimes 
there is an explosion of laughter, sometimes a burst of rage 
or exultation ; but over all prevails a sharp prolonged rattle, 
at first somewhat confusing to the non-familiar. If we ap- 
proach the tables, however, the mystery solves itself. The 
company is at the favorite games, draughts and dice, singly 
or together, and the rattle is merely of the tesserae, or ivory 
cubes, loudly shaken, and the moving of the Jiostes on the 
checkered boards. 

Who are the company ? 

"Good Flavins," said a player, holding his piece in sus- 
pended movement, " thou seest yon lacema ; that one in 
front of us on the divan. It is fresh from the shop, and 
hath a shoulder-buckle of gold broad as a palm." 

" Well," said Flavins, intent upon his game, " I have seen 
such before ; wherefore thine may not be old, yet, by the 
girdle of Venus, it is not new ! What of it ?" 

" Nothing. Only I would give it to find a man who 
knows everything." 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 243 

" Ha, ha I For something cheaper, I will find thee here 
several with purple who will take thy offer. Bat play." 

" There-check !" 

** So, by all the Jupiters 1 Now, what sayest thou ? Again ?" 

" Be it 80." 

"And the wager?" 

" A sestertium." 

Then each drew his tablets and stilus and made a mem- 
orandum ; and, while they were resetting the pieces, Flavius 
returned to his friend's remark. 

"A man who knows everything! Hercle! the oracles 
would die. What wouldst thou with such a monster?" 

" Answer to one question, my Flavius ; then, perpol ! I 
would cut his throat." 

" And the question ?" 

" I would have him tell me the hour — Hour, said I ? 
— nay, the minute — Maxentius will arrive to-morrow." 

"Good play, good play! I have youl And why the 
minute ?" 

" Hast thou ever stood uncovered in the Syrian sun on 
the quay at which he will land ? The fires of the Vesta are 
not so hot ; and, by the Stator of our father Romulus, I 
would die, if die I must, in Rome. Avemus is here ; there, 
in the square before the Forum, I could stand, and, with my 
hand raised thus, touch the floor of the gods. Ha, by 
Venus, my Flavius, thou didst beguile me 1 I have lost 
O Fortune !" 

" Again ?" 

" I must have back my sestertium." 

"Be it so." 

And they played again and again ; and when day, steal- 
ing through the skylights, began to dim the lamps, it found 
the two in the same places at the same table, still at the 
game. Like most of the company, they were military at- 
taches of the consul, awaiting his arrival and amusing them- 
selves meantime. 

During this conversation a party entered the room, and, 
unnoticed at first, proceeded to the central table. The signs 
were that they had come from a revel just dismissed. Some 
of them kept their feet with difficulty. Around the lead* 



244 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

er's brow was a chaplet which marked him master of the 
feast, if not the giver. The wine had made no impression 
upon him unless to heighten his beauty, which was of the 
most manly Roman style ; he carried his head high raised ; 
the blood flushed his lips and cheeks brightly ; his eyes glit- 
tered; though the manner in which, shrouded in a toga 
spotless white and of ample folds, he walked was too neany 
imperial for one sober and not a Csesar. In going to the 
table, he made room for himself and his followers with little 
ceremony and no apologies ; and when at length he stopped, 
and looked over it and at the players, they all turned to 
him, with a shout like a cheer. 

" Messala ! Messala !" they cried. 

Those in distant quarters, hearing the cry, re-echoed it 
where they were. Instantly there were dissolution of groups, 
and breaking-up of games, and a general rush towards the 
centre. 

Messala took the demonstration indifferently, and pro- 
ceeded presently to show the ground of his popularity. 

" A health to thee, Drusus, my friend," he said to the 
player next at his right ; *' a health — and thy tablets a mo- 
ment." 

He raised the waxen boards, glanced at the memoranda 
of wagers, and tossed them down. 

" Denarii, only denarii — coin of cartmen and butchers !" 
he said, with a scornful laugh. " By the drunken Semele, 
to what is Rome coming, when a Caesar sits o' nights wait- 
ing a turn of fortune to bring him but a beggarly denarius 1" 

The scion of the Drusi reddened to his brows, but the 
bystanders broke in upon his reply by surging closer around 
the table, and shouting, " The Messala ! the Messala !" 

** Men of the Tiber," Messala continued, wresting a box 
with the dice in it from a hand near-by, " who is he most 
favored of the gods ? A Roman. Who is he lawgiver of 
the nations ? A Roman. Who is he, by sword right, the 
universal master ?" 

The company were of the easily inspired, and the thought 
was one to which they were bom; in a twinkling they 
snatched the answer from him. 

"A Roman, a Roman !" they shouted. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 246 

" Yet — yet" — ^he lingered to catch their ears — " yet there 
is a better than the best of Rome." 

He tossed his patrician head and paused, as if to sting 
them with his sneer. 

^' Hear ye ?" he asked. '^ There is a better than the best 
of Rome." 

" Ay — Hercules !" cried one. 

" Bacchus 1" yelled a satirist. 

" Jove — Jove 1" thundered the crowd. 

" No," Messala answered, " among men." 

•* Name him, name him I" they demanded. 

" I will," he said, the next lull. " He who to the per- 
fection of Rome hath added the perfection of the East; 
who to the arm of conquest, which is Western, hath also 
the art needful to the enjoyment of dominion, which is 
Eastern." 

^^Perpol! His best is a Roman, ^ter all," some one 
shouted ; and there was a great laugh, and long clapping of 
hands — ^an admission that Messala had the advantage. 

** In the East," he continued, " we have no gods, only 
Wine, Women, and Fortune, and the greatest of them is Fort- 
une ; wherefore our motto, * Who dareth what I dare ?'— 
fit for the senate, fit for battle, fittest for him who, seeking 
the best, challenges the worst." 

His voice dropped into an easy, familiar tone, but with- 
out relaxing the ascendency he had gained. 

^' In the great chest up in the citadel I have five talents 
coin current in the markets, and here are the receipts for 
them." 

From his tunic he drew a roll of paper, and, flinging it 
on the table, continued, amidst breathless silence, every eye 
having him in view fixed on his, every ear listening : 

" The sum lies there the measure of what I dare. Who 
of you dares so much? You are silent Is it too great? 
I will strike off one talent. What! still silent? Come, 
then, throw me once for these three talents— only three ; 
for two ; for one — one at least— one for the honor of the 
river by which you were bom — Rome East against Rome 
West 1 — Orontes the barbarous against Tiber the sacred I" 

He rattled the dice overhead while waiting. 



246 BEX-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

" The Orontes against the Tiber !" he repeated, with an 
' increase of scornful emphasis. 

Not a man moved ; then he flung the box upon the table 
and, laughing, took up the receipts. 

" Ha, ha, ha ! By the 0J3rmpian Jove, I know now ye 
have fortunes to make or to mend ; therefore are ye come 
to Antioch. Ho, Cecilius !" 

" Here, Messala !" cried a man behind him ; " here am I, 
perishing in the mob, and begging a drachma to settle with 
the ragged fenyman. But, Pluto take me ! these new ones 
have not so much as an obolus among them.'' 

The sally provoked a burst of laughter, under which the 
saloon rang and rang again. Messala alone kept his grav- 
ity. 

" Go, thou," he said to Cecilius, " to the chamber whence 
we came, and bid the servants bring the amphorae here, and 
the cups and goblets. If these our countrymen, looking for 
fortune, have not purses, by the Syrian Bacchus, I will see 
if they are not better blessed with stomachs! Haste 
thee!" 

Then he turned to Drusus, with a laugh heard through- 
out the apartment. 

" Ha, ha, my friend ! Be thou not offended because I 
levelled the Caesar in thee down to the denariL Thou seest 
I did but use the name to try these fine fledglings of our 
old Rome. Come, my Drusus, come!" He took up the 
box again and rattled the dice merrily. ** Here, for what 
sum thou wilt, let us measure fortunes." 

The manner was frank, cordial, winsome. Drusus melted 
in a moment. 

" By the Nymphae, yes T' he said, laughing. " I will throw 
with thee, Messala — ^for a denarius." 

A very boyish person was looking over the table watch- 
ing the scene. Suddenly Messala turned to him. 

^ Who art thou f he asked. 

The lad drew back. 

** Nay, by Castor ! and his brother too ! I meant not of- 
fence. It is a rule among mmi, in matters other than dice, 
to keep the record closest when the deal is least I have 
need of a clerk. Wilt thou serve me ?" 



BEN-nUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 247 

The young fellow drew his tablets ready to keep the 
score : the manner was irresistible. 

^*' Hold, Messala, hold P' cried Drusus. '^ I know not if it 
be ominous to stay the poised dice with a question ; but 
one occurs to me, and I must ask it though Venus slap me 
with her girdle." 

" Nay, my Drusus, Venus with her girdle off is Venus in 
love. To thy question — I will make the throw and hold it 
against mischance. Thus — " 

He turned the box upon the table and held it firmly over 
the dice. 

And Drusus asked, "Did you ever see one Quintus Arrius ?" 

" The duumvir ?" 

" No— his son ?" 

** I knew not he had a son." 

" Well, it is nothing," Drusus added, indifferently ; " only, 
my Messala, Pollux was not more like Castor than Arrius is 
like thee." 

The remark had the effect of a signal: twenty voices 
took it up. 

'* True, true ! His eyes — his face," they cried. 

" What !" answered one, disgusted. " Messala is a Ro- 
man ; Arrius is a Jew." 

" Thou sayest right," a third exclaimed. " He is a Jew, 
or Momus lent his mother the wrong mask." 

There was promise of a dispute ; seeing which, Messala 
interposed. " The wine is not come, my Drusus ; and, as 
thou seest, I have the freckled Pythias as they were dogs in 
leash. As to Arrius, I will accept thy ' opinion of him, so 
thou tell me more about him." 

" Well, be he Jew or Roman — and, by the great god Pan, 
I say it not in disrespect of thy feelings, my Messala ! — ^this 
Arrius is handsome and brave and shrewd. The emperor 
offered him favor and patronage, which he refused. He 
came up through mystery, and keepeth distance as if he 
felt himself better or knew himself worse than the rest of 
us. In the palsBstrsB he was unmatched; he played with 
the blue-eyed giants from the Rhine and the hornless bulls 
of Sarmatia as they were willow wisps. The duumvir 
left him vastly rich. He has a passion for arms, and thinks 



248 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

of nothing but war. Maxentius admitted him into his 
family, and he was to have taken ship with us, but we lost 
him at Ravenna. Nevertheless he arrived safely. We 
heard of him this morning. Perpol! Instead of coming 
to the palace or going to the citadel, he dropped his bag- 
gage at the khan, and hath disappeared again." 

At the beginning of the speech Messala listened with po- 
lite indifference; as it proceeded, he became more attentive; 
at the conclusion, he took his hand from the dice-box, and 
called out, " Ho, my Caius ! Dost thou hear ?" 

A youth at his elbow — his Myrtilus, or comrade, in the 
day's chariot practice — answered, much pleased with the at- 
tention, " Did I not, my Messala, I were not thy friend." 

"Dost thou remember the man who gave thee the fall 
to-day ?" 

"By the love-locks of Bacchus, have I not a bruised 
shoulder to help me keep it in mind ?" and he seconded the 
words with a shrug that submerged his ears. 

" Well, be thou grateful to the Fates — I have found thy 
enemy. Listen." 

Thereupon Messala turned to Drusus. 

"Tell us more of him — -perpol! — of him who is both 
Jew and Roman — by Phoebus, a combination to make a 
Centaur lovely ! What garments doth he affect, my Drusus ?" 

" Those of the Jews." 

"Hearest thou, Caius?" said Messala. "The fellow is 
young — one; he hath the visage of a Roman — two; he 
loveth best the garb of a Jew — three ; and in the palsestrsa 
fame and fortune come of arms to throw a horse or tilt a 
chariot, as the necessity may order — ^four. And, Drusus, 
help thou my friend again. Doubtless this Arrius hath 
tricks of language; otherwise he could not so confound 
himself, to-day a Jew, to-morrow a Roman ; but of the rich 
tongue of Athene — discourseth he in that as well ?" 

" With such purity, Messala, he might have been a con- 
testant in the Isthmia." 

"Art thou listening, Caius ?" said Messala. " The fellow 
is qualified to salute a woman — for that matter Aristomache 
herself — in the Greek ; and as I keep the count, that is five. 
What sayest thou 2" 



B£^'.HU&: A TALE OF THE CUKIST. 249 

" Thou hast found him, my Mcssala,'' Caius answered ; 
" or I am not myself." 

" Thy pardon, Drasos — and pardon of all — ^for speaking 
in riddles thus," Messala said, in his winsome way. " By 
all the decent gods, I would not strain thy courtesy to the 
point of breaking, but now help thou me. See !" — he put 
his hand on the dice-box again, laughing — " See how close I 
hold the Pythias and their secret ! Thou didst speak, I 
think, of mystery in connection with the coming of the son 
of Arrius. Tell me of that" 

'*'Ti8 nothing, Messala, nothing," Drusus replied; "a 
child's story. When Arrius, the father, sailed in pursuit of 
the pirates, he was without wife or family ; he returned 
with a boy — him of whom we speak — and next day adopted 
him." 

" Adopted him ?" Messala repeated. " By the gods, Dru- 
sus, thou dost, indeed, interest me ! Where did the duum- 
vir find the boy ? And who was he ?" 

"Who shall answer thee that, Messala? who but the 
young Arrius himself? Perpol! in the fight the duum- 
vir — then but a tribune — lost his galley. A returning ves- 
sel found him and one other — all of the crew who survived 
— afloat upon the same plank. I give you now the story 
of the rescuers, which hath this excellence at least — it hath 
never been contradicted. They say, the duumvir's com- 
panion on the plank was a Jew — ^" 

" A Jew !" echoed Messala. 

" And a slave." 

" How Drusus ? A slave f 

"When the two were lifted to the deck, the duumvir 
was in his tribune's armor, and the other in the vesture of 
a rower." 

Messala arose from leaning against the table. 

"A galley" — he checked the debasing word, and looked 
around, for once in his life at loss. Just then a procession 
of slaves filed into the room, some with great jars of wine, 
others with baskets of fruits and confections, others again 
with cups and flagons, mostly silver. There was inspiration 
in the sight. Instantly Messala climbed upon a stool. 

" Men of the Tiber," he said, in a clear voice, " let us turn 



250 BEX-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

this waiting for our chief into a feast of Bacchus. Whom 
choose ye for master ?" 

Drusus arose. 

"Who shall be master but the giver of the feast?" he 
said. " Answer, Romans." 

They gave their reply in a shout. 

Messala took the chaplet from his head, gave it to Dru- 
sus, who climbed upon the table, and, in the view of all, 
solemnly replaced it, making Messala master of the night 

" There came with me into the room," he said, " some 
friends just risen from table. That our feast may have the 
approval of sacred custom, bring hither that one of them 
most overcome by wine." 

A din of voices answered, " Here he is, here he is!" 

And from the floor where he had fallen, a youth was 
brought forward, so effeminately beautiful he might have 
passed for the drinking-god himself — only the crown would 
have dropped from his head, and the thyrsus from his 
hand. 

" Lift him upon the table," the master said. 

It was found he could not sit. 

"Help him, Drusus, as the fair Nyone may yet help 
thee." 

Drusus took the inebriate in his arms. 

Then addressing the limp figure, Messala said, amidst 
profound silence, " O Bacchus ! greatest of the gods, be 
thou propitious to-night. And for myself, and these thy 
votaries, I vow this chaplet" — and from his head he raised 
it reverently — " I vow this chaplet to thy altar in the Grove 
of Daphne." 

He bowed, replaced the crown upon his locks, then stoop- 
ed and uncovered the dice, saying, with a laugh, " See, my 
DiTisus, by the ass of Silenus, the denarius is mine I" 

There was a shout that set the floor to quaking, and the 
grim Atlantes to dancing, and the orgies began. 



BEN-HUE: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 251 



Chapter XIII. 

Sheik Ilderim was a man of too much importance to go 
about with a small establishment. He had a reputation to 
keep with his tribe, such as became a prince and patriarch 
of the greatest following in all the Desert east of Syria; 
with the people of the cities he had another reputation, 
which was that of one of the richest personages not a king 
in all the East ; and, being rich in fact — in money as well 
as in servants, camels, horses, and flocks of all kinds — he 
took pleasure in a certain state, which, besides magnifying 
his dignity with strangers, contributed to his personal pride 
and comfort. Wherefore the reader must not be misled by 
the frequent reference to his tent in the Orchard of Palms. 
He had there really a respectable dowar; that is to say, he 
had there three large tents — one for himself, one for visitors, 
one for his favorite wife and her women ; and six or eight 
lesser ones, occupied by his servants and such tribal retain- 
ers as he had chosen to bring with him as a body-guard- 
strong men of approved courage, and skilful with bow, 
spear, and horses. 

To be sure, his property of whatever kind was in no dan- 
ger at the Orchard ; yet as the habits of a man go with him 
to town not less than the country, and as it is never wise to 
slip the bands of discipline, the interior of the dowar was 
devoted to his cows, camels, goats, and such property in 
general as might tempt a lion or a thief. 

To do him full justice, Ilderim kept well all the customs 
of his people, abating none, not even the smallest ; in con- 
sequence his life at the Orchard was a continuation of his 
life in the Desert ; nor that alone, it was a fair reproduction 
of the old patriarchal modes — the genuine pastoral life of 
primitive Israel. 

Recurring to the morning the caravan arrived at the Or- 
chard — " Here, plant it here," he said, stopping his horse, 
and thrusting a spear into the ground. *^Door to the 



259 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

south ; the lake before it thus ; and these, the children of 
the Desert, to sit under at the going-down of the sun." 

At the last words he went to a group of three great palm- 
trees, and patted one of them as he would have patted his 
horse^s neck, or the cheek of the child of his love. 

Who but the sheik could of right say to the caravan, 
Halt! or of the tent, Here be it pitched? The spear was 
wrested from the ground, and over the wound it had riven 
in the sod the base of the first pillar of the tent was plant- 
ed, marking the centre of the front door. Then eight 
others were planted — ^in all, three rows of pillars, three in a 
row. Then, at call, the women and children came, and un- 
folded the canvas from its packing on the camels. Who 
might do this but the women ? Had they not sheared the 
hair from the brown goats of the flock? and twisted it 
into thread ? and woven the thread into cloth ? and stitch- 
ed the cloth together, making the perfect roof, dark-brown 
in fact, though in the distance black as the tents of Ke- 
dar? And, finally, with what jests and laughter, and pulls 
altogether, the united following of the sheik stretched the 
canvas from pillar to pillar, driving the stakes and fasten- 
ing the cords as they went? And when the walls of open 
reed matting were put in place — the finishing-touch to the 
building after the style of the Desert — with what hush of 
anxiety they waited the good man's judgment? When he 
walked in and out, looking at the house in connection with 
the sun, the trees, and the lake, and said, rubbing his hands 
with might of heartiness, '* Well done ! Make the dowar 
now as ye well know, and to-night we will sweeten the 
bread with arrack, and the milk with honey, and at every 
fire there shall be a kid. God with ye ! Want of sweet 
water there shall not be, for the lake is our well ; neither 
shall the bearers of burden hunger, or the least of the flock, 
for here is green pasture also. God with you all, my chil- 
dren ! Go." 

And, shouting, the many happy went their ways then to 
pitch their own habitations. A few remained to arrange 
the interior for the sheik ; and of these the men-servants 
hung a curtain to the central row of pillars, making two 
apartments ; the one on the right sacred to Bderim himself, 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 263 

the other sacred to his horses — his jewels of Solomon — 
which they led in, and with kisses and love-taps set at lib- 
erty. Against the middle pillar they then erected the arms- 
rack, and filled it with javelins and spears, and bows, arrows, 
and shields ; outside of them hanging the master's sword, 
modelled after the new moon ; and the glitter of its blade 
rivalled the glitter of the jewels bedded in its grip. Upon 
one end of the rack they hang the housings of the horses, 
gay some of them as the livery of a king's servant, while on 
the other end they displayed the great man's wearing-ap- 
parel — his robes woollen and robes linen, his tunics and 
trousers, and many colored kerchiefs for the head. Nor 
did they give over the work until he pronounced it well. 

Meantime the women drew out and set up the divan, 
more indispensable to him than the beard down -flowing 
over his breast, white as Aaron's. They put a frame to- 
gether in shape of three sides of a square, the opening to 
the door, and covered it with cushions and base curtains, 
and the cushions with a changeable spread striped brown 
and yellow ; at the comers they placed pillows and bolsters 
sacked in cloth blue and crimson ; then around the divan 
they laid a margin of carpet, and the inner space they car- 
peted as well ; and when the carpet was carried from the 
opening of the divan to the door of the tent, their work was 
done ; whereupon they again waited until the master said it 
was good. Nothing remained then but to bring and fill the 
jars with water, and hang the skin bottles of arrack ready 
for the hand — to-morrow the leben. Nor might an Arab 
see why Ilderim should not be both happy and generous — 
in his tent by the lake of sweet waters, under the palms 
of the Orchard of Palms. 

Such was the tent at the door of which we left Ben- 
Hur. 

Servants were already waiting the master's direction. 
One of them took oft his sandals ; another unlatched Ben- 
Hur's Roman shoes; then the two exchanged their dusty 
outer garments for fresh ones of white linen. 

" Enter — in God's name, enter, and take thy rest," said 
the host, heartily, in the dialect of the Market-place of Je- 
rusalem ; forthwith he led the way to the divan. 



254 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CIIKIST. 

" I will sit here," he said next, pointing ; " and there the 
stranger." 

A woman — in the old time she would have been called a 
handmaid — answered, and dexterously piled the pillows and 
bolsters as rests for the back; after which they sat upon 
the side of the divan, while water was brought fresh from 
the lake, and their feet bathed and dried with napkins. 

" We have a saying in the Desert," Ilderim began, gath- 
ering his beard, and combing it with his slender fingers, 
"that a good appetite is the promise of a long life. Hast 
thou such ?" 

" By that rule, good sheik, I will live a hundred years. I 
am a hungry wolf at thy door," Ben-Hur replied. 

" Well, thou shalt not be sent away like a wolf. I will 
give thee the best of the flocks." 

Ilderim clapped his hands. 

" Seek the stranger in the guest-tent, and say I, Ilderim, 
send him a prayer that his peace may be as incessant as the 
flowing of waters." 

The man in waiting bowed. 

"Say, also," Ilderim continued, "that I have returned 
with another for breaking of bread ; and, if Balthasar the 
wise careth to share the loaf, three may partake of it, and 
the portion of the birds be none the less." 

The second servant went away. 

" Let us take our rest now." 

Thereupon Ilderim settled himself upon the divan, as at 
this day merchants sit on their rugs in the bazaars of Damas- 
cus ; and when fairly at rest, he stopped combing his beard, 
and said, gravely, " That thou art my guest, and hast drunk 
my leben, and art about to taste my salt, ought not to for- 
bid a question : Who art thou ?" 

"Sheik Ilderim," said Ben-Hur, calmly enduring his 
gaze, " I pray thee not to think me trifling with thy just 
demand ; but was there never a time in thy life when to an- 
swer such a question would have been a crime to thyself ?" 

" By the splendor of Solomon, yes !" Ilderim answered. 
"Betrayal of self is at times as base as the betrayal of a 
tribe." 

"Thanks, thanks, good sheik!" Ben-Hur exclaimed. 



i. 



BEN-HURi A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 255 

** Never answer became thee better. Now I know thou dost 
but seek assurance to justify the trust I have come to ask, 
and that such assurance is of more interest to thee than 
the affairs of my poor life." 

The sheik in his turn bowed, and Ben-Hur hastened to 
pursue his advantage. 

" So it please thee then," he said, " first, I am not a 
Roman, as the name given thee as mine implieth." 

Ilderim clasped the beard overflowing his breast, and 
gazed at the speaker with eyes faintly twinkling through 
the shade of the heavy close-drawn brows. 

" In the next place," Ben-Hur continued, " I am an Is- 
raelite of the tribe of Judah." 

The sheik raised his brows a little. 

"Nor that merely. Sheik, I am a Jew with a griev- 
ance against Rome compared with which thine is not more 
than a child's trouble." 

The old man combed his beard with nervous haste, and 
let fall his brows until even the twinkle of the eyes went 
out. 

" Still further : I swear to thee. Sheik Ilderim — I swear 
by the covenant the Lord made with my fathers — so thou 
but give me the revenge I seek, the money and the glory 
of the race shall be thine." 

Dderim's brows relaxed ; his head arose ; his face began 
to beam ; and it was almost possible to see the satisfaction 
taking possession of him. 

"Enough!" he said. "If at the roots of thy tongue 
there is a lie in coil, Solomon himself had not been safe 
against thee. That thou art not a Roman — that as a Jew 
thou hast a grievance against Rome, and revenge to com- 
pass, I believe; and on that score enough. But as to 
thy skill. What experience hast thou in racing with char- 
iots ? And the horses — canst thou make them creatures of 
thy will ? — ^to know thee ? to come at call ? to go, if thou 
sayest it, to the last extreme of breath and strength? and 
then, in the perishing moment, out of the depths of thy 
life thrill them to one exertion the mightiest of all ? The 
gift, my son, is not to every one. Ah, by the splendor of 
God ! I knew a king who governed millions of men, their 



256 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

perfect master, bat could not win the respect of a horse. 
Mark! I speak not of the doll brates whose round it is 
to slave for slaves — ^the debased in blood and image — ^the 
dead in spirit; but of such as mine here — the kings of 
their kind; of a lineage reaching back to the broods of 
the first Pharaoh ; my comrades and friends, dwellers in 
tents, whom long association with me has brought up to my 
plane ; who to their instincts have added our wits and to 
their senses joined our souls, until they feel all we know of 
ambition, love, hate, and contempt ; in war, heroes; in trusty 
faithful as women. Ho, there ! 

A servant came forward. 

" Let my Arabs come !" 

The man drew aside part of the division curtain of the 
tent, exposing to view a group of horses, who lingered a 
moment where they were as if to make certain of the invita- 
tion. 

" Come !" Uderim said to them. " Why stand ye there ? 
What have 1 that is not yours ? Come, I say !" 

They stalked slowly in. 

" Son of Israel," the master said, " thy Moses was a 
mighty man, but — ha, ha, ha ! — I must laugh when I think 
of his allowing thy fathers the plodding ox and the dull, 
slow-natured ass, and forbidding them property in horses. 
Ha, ha, ha ! Thinkest thou he would have done so had he 
seen that one — and that — and this ?" At the word he laid 
his hand upon the face of the first to reach him, and patted 
it with infinite pride and tenderness. 

" It is a misjudgment, sheik, a misjudgment," Ben-Hur 
said, warmly. " Moses was a warrior as well as a lawgiver 
beloved by God ; and to follow war — ^ah, what is it but to 
love all its creatures — these among the rest?" 

A head of exquisite turn — with large eyes, soft as a deer's, 
and half hidden by the dense forelock, and small ears, 
sharp-pointed and sloped well forward — approached then 
quite to his breast, the nostrils open, and the upper lip in 
motion. " Who are you ?" it asked, plainly as ever man 
spoke. Ben-Hur recognized one of the four racers he had 
seen on the course, and gave his open hand to the beautiful 
brute. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 257 

" They will tell you, the blasphemers ! — may their days 
shorten as they grow fewer !" — the sheik spoke with the f eei- 
infif of a man repelling a personal defamation — " they will 
tell you, I say, that our horses of the best blood are derived 
from the Nesaean pastures of Persia. God gave the first 
Arab a measureless waste of sand, with some treeless moun- 
tains, and here and there a well of bitter waters ; and said 
to him, * Behold thy country !' And when the poor man 
complained, the Mighty One pitied him, and said again, 
* Be of cheer 1 for I will twice bless thee above other men.' 
The Arab heard, and gave thanks, and with faith set out to 
find the blessings. He travelled all the boundaries first, and 
failed ; then he made a path into the desert, and went on 
and on — and in the heart of the waste there was an island 
of green very beautiful to see; and in the heart of the 
island, lo ! a herd of camels, and another of horses ! He 
took them joyfully and kept them with care for what they 
were — best gifts of God. And from that green isle went 
forth all the horses of the earth ; even to the pastures of 
Nessea they went; and northward to the dreadful vales 
perpetually threshed by blasts from the Sea of Chill Winds. 
Doubt not the story; or if thou dost, may never amulet 
have charm for an Arab again. Nay, I will give thee proof." 

He clapped his hands. 

" Bring me the records of the tribe," he said to the ser- 
vant who responded. 

While waiting, the sheik played with the horses, patting 
their cheeks, combing their forelocks with his fingers, giv- 
ing each one a token of remembrance. Presently six men 
appeared with chests of cedar reinforced by bands of brass, 
and hinged and bolted with brass. 

** Nay," said Ilderim, when they were all set down by the 
divan, '* I meant not all of them ; only the records of the 
horses — ^that one. Open it and take back the others." 

The chest was opened, disclosing a mass of ivory tablets 
strung on rings of silver wire; and as the tablets were 
scarcely thicker than wafers, each ring held several hundreds 
of them. 

" I know," said Ilderim, taking some of the rings in his 
hand — ^^ I know with what care and zeal, my son, the scribes 
17 



258 BEN.HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

of the Temple in the Holy City keep the names of the 
newly born, that every son of Israel may trace his line of 
ancestry to its beginning, though it antedate the patriarchs. 
My fathers — may the recollection of them be green forever ! 
— did not think it sinful to borrow the idea, and apply it to 
their dumb servants. See these tablets !" 

Ben-Hur took the rings, and separating the tablets saw 
they bore rude hieroglyphs in Arabic, burned on the smooth 
surface by a sharp point of heated metal. 

" Canst thou read them, O son of Israel ?" 

" No. Thou must tell me their meaning." 

" Know thou, then, each tablet records the name of a foal 
of the pure blood bom to my fathers through the hundreds 
of years passed ; and also the names of sire and dam. Take 
them, and note their age, that thou mayst the more readily 
believe." 

Some of the tablets were nearly worn away. All were 
yellow with age. 

" In the chest there, I can tell thee now, I have the per- 
fect history ; perfect because certified as history seldom is 
— showing of what stock all these are sprung — ^this one, 
and that now supplicating thy notice and caress; and as 
they come to us here, their sires, even the furthest removed 
in time, came to my sires, under a tent-roof like this of 
mine, to eat their measure of barley from the open hand, 
and be talked to as children; and as children kiss the 
thanks they have not speech to express. And now, O son of 
Israel, thou mayst believe my declaration — if I am a lord of 
the Desert, behold my ministers ! Take them from me, and 
I become as a sick man left by the caravan to die. Thanks 
to them, age hath not diminished the terror of me on the 
highways between cities; and it will not while I have 
strength to go with them. Ha, ha, ha ! I could tell thee 
marvels done by their ancestors. In a favoring time I may 
do so ; for the present, enough that they were never over- 
taken in retreat ; nor, by the sword of Solomon, did they 
ever fail in pursuit ! That, mark you, on the sands and un- 
der saddle ; but now — I do not know — I am afraid, for they 
are under yoke the first time, and the conditions of success 
are so many. They have the pride and the speed and the 



BEN-IIUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 269 

endurance. If I find them a master, tbey will win. Son of Is- 
rael ! so thou art the man, I swear it shall be a happy day 
that brought thee thither. Of thyself now speak." 

" I know now," said Ben-Hur, " why it is that in the 
love of an Arab his horse is next to his children ; and I 
know, also, why the Arab horses are the best in the world ; 
but, good sheik, I would not have you judge me by words 
alone ; for, as you know, all promises of men sometimes fail. 
Give me the trial first on some plain hereabout, and put the 
four in my hand to-morrow." 

Ilderim's face beamed again, and he would have spoken. 

'*A moment, good sheik, a moment!" said Ben-Hur. 
"Let me say further. From the masters in Rome I learned 
many lessons, little thinking they would serve me in a time 
like this. I tell thee these thy sons of the Desert, though they 
have separately the speed of eagles and the endurance of 
lions, will fail if they are not trained to run together under 
the yoke. For bethink thee, sheik, in every four there is 
one the slowest and one the swiftest ; and while the race is 
always to the slowest, the trouble is always with the swiftest. 
It was so to-day ; the driver could not reduce the best to 
harmonious action with the poorest. My trial may have no 
better result ; but if so, I will tell thee of it : that I swear. 
Wherefore, in the same spirit I say, can I get them to run 
together, moved by my will, the four as one, thou shalt 
have the sestertii and the crown, and I my revenge. What 
sayest thou ?" 

Ilderim listened, combing his beard the while. At the 
end he said, with a laugh, " I think better of thee, son of 
Israel. We have a saying in the Desert, * If you will cook 
the meal with words, I will promise an ocean of butter.' 
Thou shalt have the horses in the morning." 

At that moment there was a stir at the rear entrance to 
the tent. 

" The supper — it is here ! and yonder my friend Balthasar, 
whom thou shalt know. He hath a story to tell which an 
Israelite should never tire of hearing." 

And to the servants he added, 

" Take the records away, and return my jewels to their 
apartment." 

And they did as he ordered. 



260 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 



Chapter XIV. 

If the reader will return now to the repast of the wise 
men at their meeting in the desert, he will understand the 
preparations for the supper in Ilderim's tent. The differ- 
ences were chiefly such as were incident to ampler means 
and better service. 

Three rugs were spread on the carpet within the space 
so nearly enclosed by the divan ; a table ^ot more than a 
foot in height was brought and set within the same place, 
and covered with a cloth. Off to one side a portable earth- 
enware oven was established under the presidency of a 
woman whose duty it was to keep the company in bread, 
or, more precisely, in hot cakes of flour from the handmills 
grinding with constant sound in a neighboring tent. 

Meanwhile Balthasar was conducted to the divan, where 
nderim and Ben-Hur received him standing. A loose black 
gown covered his person ; his step was feeble, and his whole 
movement slow and cautious, apparently dependent upon 
a long staff and the arm of a servant. 

"Peace to you, my friend," said Ilderim, respectfully. 
" Peace and welcome." 

The Egyptian raised his head and replied, " And to thee, 
good sheik — ^to thee and thine, peace and the blessing of the 
One God — God, the true and loving." 

The manner was gentle and devout, and impressed Ben- 
Hur with a feeling of awe ; besides which the blessing in- 
cluded in the answering salutation had been partly addressed 
to him, and while that part was being spoken, the eyes of 
the aged guest, hollow yet luminous, rested upon his face 
long enough to stir an emotion new and mysterious, and so 
strong that he again and again during the repast scanned 
the much-wrinkled and bloodless face for its meaning ; but 
always there was the expression bland, placid, and trustful 
as a child's. A little later he found that expression ha- 
bitual. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 261 

"This is he, Baltliasar," said the sheik, laying his 
hand on Ben-Hur's arm, " who will break bread with us this 
evening." 

The Egyptian glanced at the young man, and looked 
again surprised and doubting ; seeing which the sheik con- 
tinued, " I have promised him my horses for trial to-mor- 
row ; and if all goes well, he will drive them in the Circus." 

Balthasar continued his gaze. 

"He came well recommended," Ilderim pursued, much 
puzzled. "You may know him as the son of Arrius, who 
was a noble Roman sailor, though" — the sheik hesitated, then 
resumed, with a laugh — " though he declares himself an Is- 
raelite of the tribe of Judah ; and, by the splendor of God, 
I believe that he tells me !" 

Balthasar could no longer withhold explanation. 

"To-day, O most generous sheik, my life was in peril, 
and would have been lost had not a youth, the counterpart 
of this one — if, indeed, he be not the very same — ^intervened 
when all others tied, and saved me." Then ho addressed 
Ben-Hur directly, " Art thou not he ?" 

" I cannot answer so far," Ben-Hur replied, with modest 
deference. " I am he who stopped the horses of the inso- 
lent Roman when they were rushing upon thy camel at the 
Fountain of Castalia. Thy daughter left a cup with me." 

From the bosom of his tunic he produced the cup, and 
gave it to Balthasar. 

A glow lighted the faded countenance of the Egyptian. 

"The Lord sent thee to me at the Fountain to-day," he 
said, in a tremulous voice, stretching his hand towards Ben- 
Hur ; " and he sends thee to me now. I give him thanks ; 
and praise him thou, for of his favor I have wherewith to 
give thee great reward, and I will. The cup is thine; 
keep it." 

Ben-Hur took back the gift, and Balthasar, seeing the 
inquiry upon Ilderim's face, related the occurrence at the 
Fountain. 

"What!" said the sheik to Ben-Hur. "Thou saidst 
nothing of this to me, when better recommendation thou 
couldst not have brought. Am I not an Arab, and sheik 
of my tribe of tens of thousands? And is not he my 



262 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

guest? And is it not in my guest-bond that the good or 
evil thou dost him is good or evil done to me? Whither 
shouldst thou go for reward but here? And whose the 
hand to give it but mine ?" 

His voice at the end of the speech rose to cutting shrilK 
ness. 

" Good sheik, spare me, I pray. I came not for reward, 
great or small ; and that I may be acquitted of the thought, 
I say the help I gave this excellent man would have been 
given as well to thy humblest servant." 

" But he is my friend, my guest — not my servant ; and 
seest thou not in the difference the favor of Fortune ?" Then 
to Balthasar the sheik subjoined, " Ah, by the splendor of 
God ! I tell thee again he is not a Roman." 

With that he turned away, and gave attention to the ser- 
vants, whose preparations for the supper were about com- 
plete. 

The reader who recollects the history of Balthasar as 
given by himself at the meeting in the desert will under- 
stand the effect of Ben-Hur's assertion of disinterestedness 
upon that worthy. In his devotion to men there had been, 
it will be remembered, no distinctions ; while the redemption 
which had been promised him in the way of reward — the 
redemption for which he was waiting — was universal. To 
him, therefore, the assertion sounded somewhat like an echo 
of himself. He took a step nearer Ben-Hur, and spoke to 
him in the childlike way. 

" How did the sheik say I should call you ? It was a 
Roman name, I think." 

" Arrius, the son of Arrius." 

" Yet thou art not a Roman ?" 

" All my people were Jews." 

" Were, saidst thou ? Are they not living ?" 

The question was subtle as well as simple ; but Ilderim 
saved Ben-Hur from reply. 

" Come," he said to them, " the meal is ready." 

Ben-Hur gave his arm to Balthasar, and conducted him 
to the table, where shortly they were all seated on their rugs 
Eastern fashion. The lavers were brought them, and they 
washed and dried their hands ; then the sheik made a sign, 



BEX-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 263 

the servants stopped, and the voice of the Egyptian arose 
tremulous with holy feeling. v 

" Father of All — God ! What we have is of thee ; take 
our thanks, and bless us, that we mav continue to do thy 
will." 

It was the grace the good man had said simultaneously 
with his brethren Gaspar the Greek and Melchior the Hin- 
doo, the utterance in diverse tongues out of which had come 
the miracle attesting the Divine Presence at the meal in the 
desert years before. 

The table to which they immediately addressed them- 
selves was, as may be thought, rich in the substantial^ and 
delicacies favorite in the East — in cakes hot from the oven, 
vegetables from the gardens, meats singly, compounds of 
meats and vegetables, milk of kine, and honey and butter 
— all eaten or drunk, it should be remarked, without any 
of the modern accessories — knives, forks, spoons, cups, or. 
plates ; and in this part of the repast but little was said, for 
they were hungry. But when the dessert was in course it 
was otherwise. They laved their hands again, had the lap- 
cloths shaken out, and with a renewed table and the sharp 
edge of their appetites gone they were disposed to talk and 
listen. 

With such a company — an Arab, a Jew, and an Egyp- 
tian, all believers alike in one God — there could be at that 
age but one subject of conversation; and of the three, 
which should be speaker but he to whom the Deity had 
been so nearly a personal appearance, who had seen him in 
a star, had heard his voice in direction, had been led so far 
and so miraculously by his Spirit? And of what should 
he talk but that of which he had been called to testify ? 



Chapter XV. 

The shadows cast over the Orchard of Palms by the moun- 
tains at set of sun left no sweet margin time of violet sky 
and drowsing earth between the day and night. The latter 
came early and swift ; and against its glooming in the tent 
this evening the servants brought four candlesticks of brass, 



264 BEN-HUR; A TALE OF THE CHfilST. 

and set them by the comers of the table. To each candle- 
stick there were four branches, and on each branch a lighted 
silver lamp and a supply cup of olive-oil. In light ample, 
even brilliant, the group at dessert continued their conver- 
tion, speaking in the Syriac dialect, familiar to aU peoples 
in that part of the world. 

The Egyptian told his story of the meeting of the three 
in the desert, and agreed with the sheik that it was in 
December, twenty-seven years before, when he and his com- 
panions fleeing from Herod arrived at the tent praying 
shelter. The narrative was heard with intense interest ; 
even the servants lingering when they could to catch its 
details. Ben-Hur received it as became a man listening to 
a revelation of deep concern to all humanity, and to none 
of more concern than the people of Israel. In his mind, 
as we shall presently see, there was crystallizing an idea 
which was to change his course of life, if not absorb it ab- 
solutely. 

As the recital proceeded, the impression made by Bal- 
thasar upon the young Jew increased ; at its conclusion, his 
feeling was too profound to permit a doubt of its truth ; 
[indeed, there was nothing left him desirable in the connec- 
tion but assurances, if such were to be had, pertaining ex- 
clusively to the consequences of the amazing event. 

And now there is wanting an explanation which the 
very discerning may have heretofore demanded ; certainly 
it can be no longer delayed. Our tale begins, in point of 
date not less than fact, to trench close upon the opening 
of the ministry of the Son of Mary, whom we have seen 
but once since this same 3althasar left him worshipfully in 
his mother's lap in the cave by Bethlehem. Henceforth 
to the end the mysterious Child will be a subject of con- 
tinual reference ; and slowly though surely the current of 
events with which we are dealing will bring us nearer and 
nearer to him, until finally we see him a man — we would 
like, if armed contrariety of opinion would permit it, to 

add A MAN WHOM THE WORLD COULD NOT DO WITHOUT. 

Of this declaration, apparently so simple, a shrewd mind 

inspired by faith will make much — and in welcome. Be- 

fore bis time, and since, tlieie \ia\ft \)fteu men indispensable 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHKIST. 265 

to particular people and periods; but his indispensability 
was to the whole race, and for all time — a respect in which 
it is unique, solitary, divine. 

To Sheik Uderim the story was not new. He had heard 
it from the three wise men together under circumstances 
which left no room for doubt ; he had acted upon it seri- 
ously, for the helping a fugitive escape from the anger of 
the first Herod was dangerous. Now one of the three sat 
at his table again, a welcome guest and revered friend. 
Sheik Ilderim certainly believed the story ; yet, in the nat- 
ure of things, its mighty central fact could not come homo 
to him with the force and absorbing effect it came to Ben- 
Hur. He was an Arab, whose interest in the consequences: 
was but general ; on the other hand, Ben-Hur was an Isrr 
elite and a Jew, with more than a special interest in — if 
the solecism can bo pardoned — ^the truth of the fact. He 
laid hold of the circumstance with a purely Jewish mind. 

From his cradle, let it be remembered, he had heard of 
the Messiah; at the colleges he had been made familiar 
with all that was known of that Being at once the hope, 
the fear, and the peculiar glory of the chosen people ; the 
prophets from the first to the last of the heroic line fore- 
told him ; and the coming had been, and yet was, the theme 
of endless exposition with the rabbis — in the synagogues, 
in the schools, in the Temple, of fast-days and feast-days, 
in public and in private, the national teachers expounded and 
kept expounding until all the children of Abraham wher- 
ever their lots were cast bore the Messiah in expectation, 
and by it literally, and with iron severity, ruled and moulded 
their lives. 

Doubtless, it will be understood from this that there was 
much argument among the Jews themselves about the 
Messiah, and so there was ; but the disputation was all 
limited to one point, and one only — when would he come ? 

Disquisition is for the preacher; whereas the writer is 
but telling a talc, and that he may not lose his character, 
the explanation he is making requires notice merely of a 
point connected with the Messiah about which the unanim- 
ity among the chosen people was matter of marvellous 
astonishment : he was to be, when come, the Ku(Qt c^ii "tu^ 



266 BEN-flUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

Jews — their political King, their Caesar. By their instru- 
mentality he was to make armed conquest of the earth, and 
then, for their profit and in the name of God, hold it down 
forever. On this faith, dear reader, the Pharisees or Sepa- 
ratists — the latter being rather a political term — in the clois- 
ters and around the altars of the Temple, built an edifice of 
hope far overtopping the dream of the Macedonian. His 
but covered the earth; theirs covered the earth and filled 
the skies ; that is to say, in their bold boundless fantasy of 
blasphemous egotism, God the Almighty was in effect to 
suffer them for their uses to nail him by the ear to a door 
in sign of eternal servitude. 

Returning directly to Ben-Hur, it is to be observed now 
that there were two circumstances in his life the result of 
which had been to keep him in a state comparatively free 
from the influence and hard effects of the audacious faith 
of his Separatist countrymen. 

In the first place, his father followed the faith of the 
Sadducees, who may, in a general way, be termed the Liber- 
als of their time. They had some loose opinions in denial 
of the soul. They were strict constructionists and rigorous 
observers of the Law as found in the books of Moses ; but 
they held the vast mass of Rabbinical addenda to those 
books in derisive contempt. They were unquestionably a 
sect, yet their religion was more a philosophy than a creed ; 
they did not deny themselves the enjoyments of life, and 
saw many admirable methods and productions among the 
Gentile divisions of the race. In politics they were the 
active opposition of the Separatists. In the natural order 
of things, these circumstances and conditions, opinions and 
peculiarities, would have descended to the son as certainly 
and really as any portion of his father's estate ; and, as we 
have seen, he was actually in course of acquiring them, 
when the second saving event overtook him. 

Upon a youth of Ben-Hur's mind and temperament the 
influence of five years of aflfluent life in Rome can be ap- 
preciated best by recalling that the great city was then, in 
fact, the meeting-place of the nations — their meeting-place 
politically and commercially, as well as for the indulgence 
of pleasure without restramt. B.ouud and round the golden 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 261 

mile-stone in front of the Forum — now in gloom of eclipse, 
now in unapproachable splendor — flowed all the active cur- 
rents of humanity. If excellences of manner, refinements 
of society, attainments of intellect, and glory of achieve- 
ment made no impression upon him, how could he, as the 
son of Arrius, pass day after day, through a period so long, 
from the beautiful villa near Misenum into the receptions 
of CaBsar, and be wholly uninfluenced by what he saw there 
of kings, princes, ambassadors, hostages, and delegates, suit- 
ors all of them from every known land, waiting humbly 
the yes or no which was to make or unmake them ? As 
mere assemblages, to be sure, there was nothing to compare 
with the gatherings at Jerusalem in celebration of the Pass- 
over ; yet when he sat under the purple velaria of the Cir- 
cus Maximus one of three hundred and fifty thousand spec- 
tators, he must have been visited by the thought that pos- 
sibly there might be some branches of the family of man 
worthy divine consideration, if not mercy, though they 
were of the uncircumcised — some, by their sorrows, and, 
yet worse, by their hopelessness in the midst of sorrows, fit- 
ted for brotherhood in the promises to his countrymen. 

That he should have had such a thought under such cir- 
cumstances was but natural ; we think so much, at least, will 
be admitted : but when the reflection came to him, and he 
gave himself up to it, he could not have been blind to a cer- 
tain distinction. The wretchedness of the masses, and 
their hopeless condition, had no relation whatever to relig- 
ion ; their murmurs and groans were not against their gods 
or for want of gods. In the oak-woods of Britain the 
Druids held their followers; Odin and Freya maintained 
their godships in Gaul and Germany and among the Hyper- 
boreans ; Egypt was satisfied with her crocodiles and Anu- 
bis; the Persians were yet devoted to Ormuzd and Ahri- 
man, holding them in equal honor ; in hope of the Nirvana, 
the Hindoos moved on patient as ever in the rayless paths 
of Brahm ; the beautiful Greek mind, in pauses of philos- 
ophy, still sang the heroic gods of Homer ; while in Rome 
nothing was so common and cheap as gods. According to 
whim, the masters of the world, because they were masters,^ 
carried their worship and offerings indiSet^xiW^ ixota ^\»3t 



268 BEX-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

to altar, delighted in the pandemonium they had erected. 
Their discontent, if they were discontented, was with the 
number of gods ; for, after borrowing all the divinities of 
the earth they proceeded to deify their Caesars, and vote 
them altars and holy service. No, the unhappy condition 
was not from religion, but misgovernment and usurpations 
and countless tyrannies. The Avemus men had been tum- 
bled into, and were praying to be relieved from, was terribly 
but essentially political. The supplication — everywhere 
alike, in Lodinum, Alexandria, Athens, Jerusalem — was for 
a king to conquer with, not a god to worship. 

Studying the situation after two thousand years, we can 
see and say that religiously there was no relief from the 
universal confusion except some God could prove himself 
a true God, and a masterful one, and come to the rescue ; 
but the people of the time, even the discerning and philo- 
sophical, discovered no hope except in crushing Rome ; that 
done, the relief would follow in restorations and reorgani- 
zations ; therefore they prayed, conspired, rebelled, fought, 
and died, drenching the soil to-day with blood, to-morrow 
with tears — and always with the same result. 

It remains to be said now that Ben-Hur was in agree- 
ment with the mass of men of his time not Romans. The 
five years' residence in the capital served him with oppor- 
tunity to see and study the miseries of the subjugated 
world; and in full belief that the evils which afflicted it 
were political, and to be cured only by the sword, he was 
going forth to fit himself for a part in the day of resort to 
the heroic remedy. By practice of arms he was a perfect 
soldier; but war has its higher fields, and he who would 
move successfully in them must know more than to defend 
with shield and thrust with spear. In those fields the gen- 
eral finds his tasks, the gi'eatest of which is the reduction 
of the many into one, and that one himself ; the consum- 
mate captain is a fighting-man armed with an army. This 
conception entered into the scheme of life to which he was 
further swayed by the reflection that the vengeance he 
dreamed of, in connection with his individual wrongs, would 
be more surely found in some of the ways of war than in 
anjr pursuit of peace. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 269 

The feelings with which he listened to Balthasar can be 
now understood. The story touched two of the most sen- 
sitive points of his being so they rang within him. His 
heart beat fast — and faster still when, searching himself, he 
found not a doubt either that the recital was true in every 
particular, or that the Child so miraculously found was the 
Messiah. Marvelling much that Israel rested so dead to the 
revelation, and that he had never heard of it before that 
day, two questions presented themselves to him as centring 
all it was at that moment further desirable to know : 

Where was the Child then ? 

And what was his mission ? 

With apologies for the interruptions, he proceeded to 
draw out the opinions of Balthasar, who was in nowise loath 
to speak. 



Chapter XVI. 

" If I could answer you," Balthasar said, in his simple, 
earnest, devout way — " oh, if I knew where he is, how 
quickly I would go to him ! The seas should not stay me, 
nor the mountains." 

" You have tried to find him, then ?" asked Ben-Hur. 

A smile flitted across the face of the Egyptian. 

" The first task I charged myself with after leaving the 
shelter given me in the desert" — Balthasar cast a grateful 
look at Ilderim — " was to learn what became of the Child. 
But a year had passed, and I dared not go up to Judea in 
person, for Herod still held the throne bloody-minded as 
ever. In Egypt, upon my return, there were a few friends 
to believe the wonderful things I told them of what I had 
seen and heard — a few who rejoiced with me that a Re- 
deemer was born — a few who never tired of the story. Some 
of them came up for me looking after the Child. They 
went first to Bethlehem, and found there the khan and the 
cave ; but the steward — he who sat at the gate the night of 
the birth, and the night we came following the star — was 
gone. The king had taken him away, and he was no more 
seen." 



270 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHKlfeT. 

"But they found some proofs, surely," said Ben-Hur, 
eagerly. 

" Yes, proofs written in blood — a village in mourning ; 
mothers yet crying for their little ones. You must know, 
when Herod heard of our flight, he sent down and slew the 
youngest-born of the children of Bethlehem. Not one es- 
3aped. The faith of my messengers was confirmed; but 
they came to me saying the Child was dead, slain with the 
other innocents." 

"Dead!" exclaimed Ben-Hur, aghast. "Dead, sayest 
thou ?" 

" Nay, my son, I did not say so. I said they, my mes- 
sengers, told me the Child was dead. I did not believe the 
report then ; I do not believe it now." 

" I see — thou hast some special knowledge." 

"Not so, not so," said Balthasar, dropping his gaze. 
" The Spirit was to go with us no farther than to the Child. 
When we came out of the cave, after our presents were 
given and we had seen the babe, we looked first thing for 
the star; but it was gone, and we knew we were left to 
ourselves. The last inspiration of the Holy One — the last 
I can recall — was that which sent us to Ilderim for safety." 

" Yes," said the sheik, fingering his beard nervously. 
"You told me you were sent to me by a Spirit— I remem- 
ber it." 

" I have no special knowledge," Balthasar continued, ob- 
serving the dejection which had fallen upon Ben-Hur ; " but, 
my son, I have given the matter much thought — thought 
continuing through years, inspired by faith, which, I assure 
you, calling God for witness, is as strong in me now as in 
the hour I heard the voice of the Spirit calling me by the 
shore of the lake. If you will listen, I will tell you why I 
believe the Child is living." 

Both Ilderim and Ben-Hur looked assent, and appeared 
to summon their faculties that they might understand as 
well as hear. The interest reached the servants, who drew 
near to the divan, and stood listening. Throughout the 
tent there was the profoundest silence. 

" We three believe in God." 
Balthasar bowed his liead as he spoke. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 27l 

" And he is the Truth," he resumed. " His word is God. 
The hills may turn to dust, and the seas be drunk dry by 
Bouth winds ; but his word shall stand, because it is the 
Truth." 

The utterance was in a manner inexpressibly solemn. 

" The voice, which was his, speaking to me by the lake, 
said, * Blessed art thou, O son of Mizraim ! The Redemp- 
tion Cometh. With two others from the remotenesses of 
the earth, thou shalt see the Saviour.' I have seen the Sav- 
iour — blessed be his name! — but the Redemption, which 
was the second part of the promise, is yet to come. Seest 
thou now ? If the Child be dead, there is no agent to bring 
the Redemption about, and the word is naught, and God — 
nay, I dare not say it !" 

He threw up both hands in horror. 

** The Redemption was the work for which the Child was 
bom ; and so long as the promise abides, not even death can 
separate him from his work until it is fulfilled, or at least 
in the way of fulfilment. Take you that now as one rea- 
son for my belief ; then give me further attention." 

The good man paused. 

" Wilt thou not taste the wine ? It is at thy hand — see," 
said llderim, respectfully. 

Balthasar drank, and, seeming refreshed, continued : 

"The Saviour I saw was born of woman, in nature like 
us, and subject to all our ills — even death. Let that stand 
as the first proposition. Consider next the work set apart 
to him. Was it not a performance for which only a man 
is fitted ? — a man wise, firm, discreet — a man, not a child ? 
To become such he had to grow as we grow. Bethink you 
now of the dangers his life was subject to in the interval — 
the long interval between childhood and maturity. The ex- 
isting powers were his enemies; Herod was his enemy; 
and what would Rome have been ? And as for Israel — that 
he should not be accepted by Israel was the motive for cut- 
ting him off. See you now. What better way was there 
to take care of his life in the helpless growing time than 
by passing him into obscurity? Wherefore I say to my- 
self, and to my listening faith, which is never moved except 
by yearning of love — ^I say he is not dead, but lost\ ^\A^ 



272 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

his work remaining undone, he will come again. There 
you have the reasons for my belief. Are they not good ?" 

Ilderim's small Arab eyes were bright with understand^ 
ing, and Ben-Hur, lifted from his dejection, said heartily, 
" I, at least, may not gainsay them. What further, pray ?" 

" Hast thou not enough, my son ? Well," he began, in 
calmer tone, "seeing that the reasons were good — more 
plainly, seeing it was God's will that the Child should not 
be found — I settled my faith into the keeping of patience, 
and took to waiting." He raised his eyes, full of holy 
trust, and broke off abstractedly — " I am waiting now. He 
lives, keeping well his mighty secret. What though I can- 
not go to him, or name the hill or the vale of his abiding- 
place ? He lives — it may be as the fruit in blossom, it may 
be as the fruit just ripening ; but by the certainty there is 
in the promise and reason of God, I know he lives." 

A thrill of awe struck Ben-Hur — a thrill which was but 
the dying of his half-formed doubt. 

"Where thinkest thou he is?" he asked, in a low voice, 
and hesitating, like one who feels upon his lips the pressure 
of a sacred silence. 

Balthasar looked at him kindly, and replied, his mind not 
entirely freed from its abstraction, 

" In my house on the Nile, so close to the river that the 
passers-by in boats see it and its reflection in the water at the 
same time — ^in my house, a few weeks ago, I sat thinking. 
A man thirty years old, I said to myself, should have his 
fields of life all ploughed, and his planting well done ; for 
after that it is summer-time, with space scarce enough to 
ripen his sowing. The Child, I said further, is now twenty- 
seven — his time to plant must be at hand. I asked myself, 
as you here asked me, my son, and answered by coming 
hither, as to a good resting-place close by the land thy fa- 
thers had from God. Where else should he appear, if not in 
Judea? In what city should he begin his work, if not in 
Jerusalem ? Who should be first to receive the blessings he 
is to bring, if not the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob ; 
in love, at least, the children of the Lord ? If I were bidden 
go seek him, I would search well the hamlets and villages 
on the slopes of the mountains of Judea and Galilee falling 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 273 

eastwardly into the valley of the Jordan. He is there now. 
Standing in a door or on a hill-top, only this evening he saw 
the sun set one day nearer the time when he himself shall 
become the light of the world." 

Balthasar ceased, with his hand raised and finger pointing 
as if at Judea. All the listeners, even the dull servants out- 
side the divan, affected by his fervor, were startled as if by 
a majestic presence suddenly apparent within the tent. Nor 
did the sensation die away at once: of those at the table, 
each sat awhile thinking. The spell was finally broken by 
Ben-Hur. 

" I see, good Balthasar," he said, " that thou hast been 
much and strangely favored. I see, also, that thou art a wise 
man indeed. It is not in my power to tell how grateful I 
am for the things thou hast told me. I am warned of the 
coming of great events, and borrow somewhat from thy 
faith. Complete the obligation, I pray thee, by telling fur- 
ther of the mission of him for whom thou art waiting, and 
for whom from this night I too shall wait as becomes a be- 
lieving son of Judah. He is to be a Saviour, thou saidst ; 
is he not to be King of the Jews also ?" 

" My son," said Balthasar, in his benignant way, " the 
mission is yet a purpose in the bosom of God. All I think 
about it is wrung from the words of the Voice in connection 
with the prayer to which they were in answer. Shall we 
refer to them again ?" 

" Thou art the teacher." 

" The cause of my disquiet," Balthasar began, calmly — 
'* that which made me a preacher in Alexandria and in the 
villages of the Nile ; that which drove me at last into the 
solitude where the Spirit found me — was the fallen condition 
of men, occasioned, as I believed, by loss of the knowledge 
of God. I sorrowed for the sorrows of my kind — not of 
one class, but all of them. So utterly were they fallen it 
seemed to me there could be no Redemption unless God him- 
self would make it his work ; and I prayed him to come, 
and that I might see him. * Thy good works have con- 
quered. The Redemption cometh ; thou shalt see the Sav- 
iour' — thus the Voice spake; and with the answer I went 
up to Jerusalem rejoicing. Now, to whom is tti^ "fi^fc^tsm^ 

as 



274 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

tion ? To all the world. And how shall it be ? Strengthen 
thy faith, my son ! Men say, I know, that there will be no 
happiness until Rome is razed from her hills. That is to 
say, the ills of the time are not, as I thought them, from 
ignorance of God, but from the misgovemment of rulers. 
Do we need to be told that human governments are never 
for the sake of religion ? How many kings have you heard 
of who were better than their subjects ? Oh no, no ! The 
Redemption cannot be for a political purpose — ^to pull down 
rulers and powers, and vacate their places merely that others 
may take and enjoy them. If that were all of it, the wisdom 
of God would cease to be surpassing. I tell you, though it 
be but the saying of blind to blind, he that comes is to be a 
Saviour of souls; and the Redemption means God once 
more on earth, and righteousness, that his stay here may be 
tolerable to himself." 

Disappointment showed plainly on Ben-Hur's face — his 
head drooped; and if he was not convinced, he yet felt 
himself incapable that moment of disputing the opinion of 
ihe Egyptian. Not so Uderim. 

" By the splendor of God !" he cried, impulsively, " the 
judgment does away with all custom. The ways of the 
world are fixed, and cannot be changed. There must be a 
leader in every community clothed with power, else there is 
no reform." 

Balthasar received the burst gravely. 

" Thy wisdom, good sheik, is of the world ; and thou 
dost forget that it is from the ways of the world we are to 
be redeemed. Man as a subject is the ambition of a king ; 
the soul of a man for its salvation is the desire of a God." 

Uderim, though silenced, shook his head, unwilling to 
believe. Ben-Hur took up the argument for him. 

" Father — I call thee such by permission," he said — " for 
whom wert thou required to ask at the gates of Jerusalem ?" 

The sheik threw him a grateful look. 

"I was to ask of the people," said Balthasar, quietly, 
'Where is he that is bom King of the Jews?' " 

"And you saw him in the cave by Bethlehem ?" 

" We saw and worshipped him, and gave him presents— 
Melcbior, gold ; Gaspar, ttan\Qii(ie;Ti^^ ; and I, myrrh." 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. ^75 

" When thou dost speak of fact, father, to hear thee is 
to believe," said Ben-Har ; " but in the matter of opinion, 
I cannot understand the kind of king thou wouldst make of 
the Child — I cannot separate the ruler from his powers and 
duties." 

" Son," said Balthasar, " we have the habit of studying 
closely the things which chance to lie at our feet, giving 
but a look at the greater objects in the distance. Thou 
seest now but the title — King of the Jews ; wilt thou lift 
thine eyes to the mystery beyond it, the stumbling-block 
will disappear. Of the title, a word. Thy Israel hath seen 
better days — days in which God called thy people endear- 
ingly his people, and dealt with them through prophets. 
Now, if in those days he promised them the Saviour I saw 
— promised him as King of the Jews — the appearance must 
be according to the promise, if only for the word's sake. 
Ah, thou seest the reason of my question at the gate ! — 
thou seest, and I will no more of it, but pass on. It may 
be, next, thou art regarding the dignity of the Child ; if so, 
bethink thee — what is it to be a successor of Herod? — ^by 
the world's standard of honor, what ? Could not God bet- 
ter by his beloved ? If thou canst think of the Almighty 
Father in want of a title, and stooping to borrow the inven- 
tions of men, why was I not bidden ask for a CflBsar at once ? 
Oh, for the substance of that whereof we speak, look high- 
er, I pray thee ! Ask rather of what he whom we await 
shall be king ; for I do tell, my son, that is the key to 
the mystery, which no man shall understand without the 
key." 

JBalthasar raised his eyes devoutly. 

" There is a kingdom on the earth, though it is not of it 
— a kingdom of wider bounds than the earth — wider than 
the sea and the earth, though they were rolled together as 
finest gold and spread by the beating of hammers. Its ex- 
istence is a fact as our hearts are facts, and we journey 
through it from birth to death without seeing it ; nor shall 
any man see it until he hath first known his own soul ; for 
the kingdom is not for him, but for his soul. And in its 
dominion there is glory such as hath not entered imaginar 
tion— original, incomparable, impossible of mct^A&i^r 



276 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

" What thou sayest, father, is a riddle to me," said Ben- 
Hur. " I never heard of such a kingdom." 

'* Nor did I," said llderim. 

" And I may not tell more of it," Balthasar added, hum- 
bly dropping his eyes. " What it is, what it is for, how 
it may be reached, none can know until the Child comes to 
take possession of it as his own. He brings the key of the 
viewless gate, which he will open for his beloved, among 
whom will be all who love him, for of such only the re- 
deemed will be." 

After that there was a long silence, which Balthasar ac- 
cepted as the end of the conversation. 

" Good sheik," he said, in his placid way, " to-morrow or 
the next day I will go up to the city for a time. My daugh- 
ter wishes to see the preparations for the games. I will 
speak further about the time of our going. And, my son, 
I will see you again. To you both, peace and good-night." 

They all arose from the table. The sheik and Ben-Hur 
remained looking after the Egyptian until he was conduct- 
ed out of the tent. 

" Sheik Dderim," said Ben - Hur then, " I have heard 
strange things to-night. Give me leave, I pray, to walk by 
the lake that I may think of them." 

" Go ; and I will come after you." 

They washed their hands again ; after which, at a sign 
from the master, a servant brought Ben-Hur his shoes, and 
directly he went out 



Chapter XVH. 

Up a little way from the dowar there was a cluster of 
palms, which threw its shade half in the water, half on the 
land. A bulbul sang from the branches a song of invitation. 
Ben-Hur stopped beneath to listen. At any other time the 
notes of the bird would have driven thought away; but 
"the story of the Egyptian was a burden of wonder, and he 
was a laborer carrying it, and, like other laborers, there was 
to him no music in the sweetest music until mind and body 
were liappily attuned by test 



BKN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 277 

The night was quiet. Not a ripple broke upon the shore. 
The old stars of the old East were all out, each in its ac- 
customed place; and there was summer everywhere— on 
land, on lake, in the sky. 

Ben-Hur's imagination was heated, his feelings aroused, 
his will all unsettled. 

So the palms, the sky, the air, seemed to him of the far 
south zone into which Balthasar had been driven by de- 
spair for men ; the lake, with its motionless surface, was a 
suggestion of the Nilotic mother by which the good man 
stood praying when the Spirit made its radiant appearance. 
Had all these accessories of the miracle come to Ben-Hur ? 
or had he been transferred to them ? And what if the mir- 
acle should be repeated — and to him? He feared, yet 
wished, and even waited for the vision. When at last his 
feverish mood was cooled, permitting him to become him- 
self, he was able to think. 

His scheme of life has been explained. In all reflection 
about it heretofore there had been one hiatus which he had 
not been able to bridge or fill up— one so broad he could 
see but vaguely to the other side of it. When, finally, he 
was graduated a captain as well as a soldier, to what ob- 
ject should he address his efforts? Revolution he contem- 
plated, of course; but the processes of revolution have al- 
ways been the same, and to lead men into them there have 
always been required, first, a cause or pretence to enlist ad- 
herents ; second, an end, or something as a practical achieve- 
ment. As a rule he fights well who has wrongs to redress ; 
but vastly better fights he who, with wrongs as a spur, has 
also steadily before him a glorious result in prospect — a re- 
sult in which he can discern balm for wounds, compensa- 
tion for valor, remembrance and gratitude in the event of 
death. 

To determine the suflBciency of either the cause or the 
end, it was needful that Ben-Hur should studv the adhe- 
rents to whom he looked when all was ready for action. 
Very naturally, they were his countrymen. The wrongs of 
Israel were to every son of Abraham, and each one was a 
cause vastly holy, vastly inspiring. 

Ay, the cause was there ; but the end — ^\ia\. ^\\wi\.^\\»\i^\ 



278 BEN-MUK: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

The hours and days he had given this branch of his 
scheme were past calculation — all with the same conclusion 
— a dim, uncertain, general idea of national liberty. Was 
it sufficient? He could not say no, for that would have 
been the death of his hope ; he shrank from saying yes, be- 
cause his judgment taught him better. He could not as- 
sure himself even that Israel was able single-handed to suc- 
cessfully combat Rome. He knew the resources of that 
great enemy ; he knew her art was superior to her resources. 
A universal alliance might suffice, but, alas! that was im- 
possible, except — and upon the exception how long and 
earnestly he had dwelt ! — except a hero would come from 
one of the suffering nations, and by martial successes ac- 
complish a renown to fill the whole earth. What glory to 
Judea could she prove the Macedonia of the new Alexan- 
der 1 Alas, again ! Under the rabbis valor was possible, 
but not discipline. And then the taunt of Messala in the 
garden of Herod — "All you conquer in the six days, you 
lose on the seventh." 

So it happened he never approached the chasm thinking 
to surmount it, but he was beaten back ; and so incessantly 
had he failed in the object that he had about given it over, 
except as a thing of chance. The hero might be discovered 
in his day, or he might not. God only knew. Such his 
state of mind, there need be no lingering upon the effect 
of Malluch's skeleton recital of the story of Balthasar. He 
heard it with a bewildering satisfaction — a feeling that here 
was the solution of the trouble — here was the requisite hero 
found at last ; and he a son of the Lion tribe, and King of 
the Jews ! Behind the hero, lo ! the world in arms. 

The king implied a kingdom ; he was to be a warrior 
glorious as David, a ruler wise and magnificent as Solomon ; 
the kingdom was to be a power against which Rome was to 
dash itself to pieces. There would be colossal war, and the 
agonies of death and birth — then peace, meaning, of course, 
Judean dominion forever. 

Ben-Hur's heart beat hard as for an instant he had a vision 
of Jerusalem the capital of the world, and Zion, the site of 
the throne of the Universal Master. 
It seemed to the enthusiast lai^ ioYt\iue that the man 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CflKlbT. 279 

who had seen the king was at the tent to which he was 
going. He could see him there, and hear him, and learn 
of him what all he knew of the coming change, especially 
all he knew of the time of its happening. If it were at 
hand, the campaign with Maxentius should be abandoned ; 
and he would go and set about organizing and arming the 
tribes, that Israel might be ready when the great day of the 
restoration began to break. 

Now, as we have seen, from Balthasar himself Ben-Hur 
had the marvellous story. Was he satisfied ? 

There was a shadow upon him deeper than that of the 
cluster of palms — the shadow of a great uncertainty, which 
— take note, O reader ! which pertained more to the king- 
dom than the king. 

"What of this kingdom? And what is it to be?" Ben- 
Hur asked himself in thought. 

Thus early arose the questions which were to follow the 
Child to his end, and survive him on earth — incomprehen- 
sible in his day, a dispute in this — an enigma to all who do 
not or cannot understand that every man is two in one — a 
deathless Soul and a mortal Body. 

" What is it to be V he asked. 

For us, reader, the Child himself has answered ; but 
for Ben-Hur there were only the words of Balthasar, " On 
the earth, yet not of it — not for men, but for their souls — 
a dominion, nevertheless, of unimaginable glory." 

What wonder the hapless youth found the phrases but 
the darkening of a riddle ? 

" The hand of man is not in it," he said, despairingly. 
" Nor has the king of such a kingdom use for men ; neither 
toilers, nor councillors, nor soldiers. The earth must die 
or be made anew, and for government new principles must 
be discovered — something besides armed hands — something 
in place of Force. But what ? 

Again, reader ! 

That which we will not see, he could not. The power 
there is in Love had not yet occurred to any man ; much 
less had one come saying directly that for government and 
its objects — peace and order — Love is better and mightier 
than Force. 



280 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

In the midst of his reverie a hand was laid upon his 
shoulder. 

" I have a word to say, O son of Arrius," said Ilderim, 
stopping by his side — " A word, and then I must return, 
for the night is going." 

" I give you welcome, sheik." 

" As to the things you have heard but now," said Ilde- 
rim, almost without pause, ** take in belief all save that re- 
lating to the kind of kingdom the Child will set up when 
he comes ; as to so much keep virgin mind until you hear 
Simonides the merchant — a good man here in Antioch, to 
whom I will make you known. The Egyptian gives you 
coinage of his dreams which are too good for the earth; 
Simonides is wiser; he will ring you the sayings of your 
prophets, giving book and page, so you cannot deny that 
the Child will be King of the Jews in fact — ay, by the 
splendor of God ! a king as Herod was, only better and far 
more magnificent. And then, see you, we will taste the 
sweetness of vengeance. I have said. Peace to you I" 

" Stay— sheik !" 

If Ilderim heard his call, he did not stay. 

" Simonides again !" said Ben-Hur, bitterly. " Simonides 
here, Simonides there ; from this one now, then from that ! 
I am like to be well ridden by my father's servant, who 
knows at least to hold fast that which is mine ; wherefore 
he is richer, if indeed he be not wiser, than the Egyptian. 
By the covenant ! it is not to the faithless a man should go 
to find a faith to keep — and I will not. But, hark ! sing- 
ing — and the voice a woman's — or an angel's ! It comes 
this way." 

Down the lake towards the do war came a woman singing. 
Her voice floated along the hushed water melodious as a 
flute, and louder growing each instant. Directly the dip- 
ping of oars was heard in slow measure ; a little later the 
words were distinguishable — words in purest Greek, best 
fitted of all the tongues of the day for the expression of 
passionate grief. 



BENHUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 281 

THE LAMENT. 
(Egyptian.) 

I sigh as I sing for the story land 

Across the Syrian sea. 
The odorous winds from the musky sand 

Were breaths of life to me. 
They play with the plumes of the whispering palm 

For me, alas ! no more ; 
Nor more does the Nile in the moonlit calm 

Moan past the Memphian shore. 

Nilus ! thou god of my fainting soul I 

In dreams thou comest to mc ; 
And, dreaming, I play with the lotus bowl. 

And sing old songs to thee ; 
And hear from afar the Memnonian strain, 

And calls from dear Simbel ; 
And wake to a passion of grief and pain 

That e'er I said — Farewell ! 

At the conclusion of the song the singer was past the 
cluster of palms. The last word — farewell — floated past 
Ben-Hur weighted with all the sweet sorrow of parting. 
The passing of the boat was as the passing of a deeper 
shadow into the deeper night. 

Ben-Hur drew a long breath hardly distinguishable from 
a sigh. 

" I know her by the song — the daughter of Balthasar. 
How beautiful it was ! And how beautiful is she !" 

He recalled her large eyes curtained slightly by the 
drooping lids, the cheeks oval and rosy rich, the lips full 
and deep with dimpling in the comers, and all the gi*ace of 
the tall lithe figure. 

"How beautiful she is!" he repeated. V_A 

And his heart made answer by a quickening of its move- 
ment. 

Then, almost the same instant, another face, younger and 
quite as beautiful — more childlike and tender, if not so pas- 
sionate — appeared as if held up to him out of the lake. 

" Esther !" he said, smiling. " As I ti^ished, a star has 
been sent to me." 

He turned, and passed slowly back to the tent. 



282 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

His life had been crowded with griefs and with vengeful 
preparations — too much crowded for love. Was this the 
beginning of a bappy change? 

And if the influence went with him into the tent, whose 
was it? 

Esther had given him a cnp. 

So had the Egyptian. 

And both had come to him at the same time under the 
palms. 

Which? 



BEK-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 283 



BOOK FIFTH. 



** Only the actions of the just 
Smell sweet and blossom in the dust." 

Shirley. 

" And, through the heat of conflict, keeps the law, 
In calmness made, and sees what he foresaw." 

Wordsworth. 



Chapter I. 

The morning after the bacchanal ia in the saloon of the 
palace, the divan was covered with young patricians. 
Maxentius might come, and the city throng to receive him ; 
the legion might descend from Mount Sulpius in glory of 
arms and armor; from Nymphaeum to Omphalus there 
might be ceremonial splendors to shame the most notable 
ever before seen or heard of in the gorgeous East; yet 
would the many continue to sleep ignominiously on the 
divan where they had fallen or been carelessly tumbled by 
the indifferent slaves ; that they would be able to take part 
in the reception that day was about as possible as for the 
lay-figures in the studio of a modern artist to rise and go 
bonneted and plumed through the one, two, three of a 
waltz. 

Not all, however, who participated in the orgy were in 
the shameful condition. When dawn began to peer through 
the skylights of the saloon, Messala arose, and took the chap- 
let from his head, in sign that the revel was at end ; then 
he gathered his robe about him, gave a last look at the 
scene, and, without a word, departed for his quarters. Cice- 
ro could not have retired with more gravity from a night- 
long senatorial debate. 



284 BEN-aUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

Three hours afterwards two couriers entered his room, and 
from his own hand received each a despatcli, sealed and in 
duplicate, and consisting chiefly of a letter to Valerius Gra- 
tus, the procurator, still resident in Csesarea. The impor- 
tance attached to the speedy and certain delivery of the 
paper may be inferred. One courier was to proceed over- 
land, the other by sea ; both were to make the utmost haste. 

It is of great concern now that the reader should be fully 
informed of the contents of the letter thus forwarded, and 
it is accordingly given : 

" Antioch, XIL Kill. Jul. 
^^Messala to Grains. 

" my Midas ! 

" I pray thou take no offence at the address, seeing it is one of love 
and gratitude, and an admission that thou art most fortunate among 
men ; seeing, also, that thy ears are as they were derived from thy 
mother, only proportionate to thy matured condition. 

** my Midas ! 

" I have to relate to thee an astonishing event, which, though as 
yet somewhat in the field of conjecture, will, I doubt not, justify thy 
instant consideration. 

" Allow me first to revive thy recollection. Remember, a good many 
years ago, a family of a prince of Jerusalem, incredibly ancient and 
vastly rich — by name Ben-Hur. If thy memory have a limp or ailment 
of any kind, there is, if I mistake not, a wound on thy head which 
may help thee to a revival of the circumstance. 

" Next, to arouse thy interest. In punishment of the attempt upon 
thy life — for dear repose of conscience, may all the gods forbid it 
should ever prove to have been an accident ! — the family were seized 
and summarUy disposed of, and their property confiscated. And inas- 
much, my Midas ! as the action had the approval of our Caesar, who 
was as just as he was wise — be there flowers upon his altars forever ! 
— there should be no shame in referring to the sums which were real- 
ized to us respectively from that source, for which it is not possible I 
can ever cease to be grateful to thee, certainly not while I continue, 
as at present, in the uninterrupted enjoyment of the part which fell 
to me. 

" In vindication of thy wisdom — a quality for which, as I am now 
advised, the son of Gordius, to whom I have boldly likened thee, was 
never distinguished among men or gods — I recall further that thou 
didst make disposition of the family of Hur, both of us at the time 
supposing the plan hit upon to be the most effective possible for the 
purposes in view, which were silence and delivery over to inevitable 
but natural death. Thou wilt remember what thou didst with the 
mother and sister of the malefactot* ; yet, if now I yield to a desire to 
le&rn wLether they be living or dead, I know, from knowing the amia- 



BEX-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 285 

bility of thy nature, my Gratus, that thou wilt pardon me as one 
scarcely less amiable than thyself. 

** As more immediately essential to the present business, however, I 
take the liberty of inviting to thy remembrance that the actual crim- 
inal was sent to the galleys a slave for life — so the precept ran ; and 
it may serve to make the event which I am about to relate the more 
astonishing by saying here that I saw and read the receipt for his 
body delivered in course to the tribune commanding a galley. 

" Thou mayst begin now to give me more especial heed, my most 
excellent Phrygian I 

" Referring to the limit of life at the oar, the outlaw thus justly dis- 
posed of should be dead, or, better speaking, some one of the three 
thousand Oceanides should have taken him to husband at least five 
years ago. And if thou wilt excuse a momentary weakness, most 
virtuous and tender of men ! inasmuch as I loved him in childhood, 
and also because he was very handsome — I used in much admiration 
to call him my Ganymede — he ought in right to have fallen into the 
arms of the most beautiful daughter of the family. Of opinion, how- 
ever, that he was certainly dead, I have Hved quite five years in calm 
and innocent enjoyment of the fortune for which I am in a degree in- 
debted to him. I make the admission of indebtedness without intend- 
ing it to diminish my obligation to thee. 

" Now I am at the very point of interest. 

** Last night, while acting as master of the feast for a party just 
from Rome — their extreme youth and inexperience appealed to my 
compassion — I heard a singular story. Maxeutius, the consul, as 
you know, comes to-day to conduct a campaign against the Parthi- 
ans. Of the ambitious who are to accompany him there is one, a son of 
the late duumvir Quintus Arrius. I had occasion to inquire about 
him particularly. When Arrius set out in pursuit of the pirates, whose 
defeat gained him his final honors, he had no family ; when he returned 
from the expedition, he brought back with him an heir. Now be thou 
composed as becomes the owner of so many talents in ready sestertia ! 
The son and heir of whom I speak is he whom thou didst send to the 
galleys — the very Ben-Hur who should have died at his oar five years 
ago^returned now with fortune and rank, and possibly as a Roman 
citizen, to — Well, thou art too firmly seated to be alarmed, but I, 
my Midas ! I am in danger — no need to tell thee of what. Who should 
know, if thou dost not ? 

" Sayst thou to all this, tut-tut ? 

" When Arrius, the father, by adoption, of this apparition from the 
arms of the most beautiful of the Oceanides (see above my opinion of 
what she should bo), joined battle with the pirates, his vessel was sunk, 
and but two of all her crew escaped drowning — Arrius himself and 
this one, his heir. 

" The officers who took them from the plank on which they were 
floating say the associate of the fortunate tribune was a young man 
who, when lifted to the deck, was in the dress of a galley slave. 

** This should be convincing, to say least ; but lest thou say tut-t\xt 



286 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

again, I tell thee, my Midas! that yesterday, by <yood chance — ^I 
have a tow to Fortune in consequence — I met the mysterious son of 
Arrius face to face; and I declare now that, though I did not then 
recognize him, he is the very Ben-Hur who was for years my play- 
mate ; the very Ben-Hur who, if he be a man, though of the commonest 
grade, must this very moment of my writing be thinking of vengeance 
— ^for so would I were I he — ^vengeance not to be satisfi^ short of life ; 
vengeance for country, mother, sister, self, and — ^I say it last, though 
thou mayst think it should be first — for fortune lost. 

" By this time, good my benefactor and friend ! my Gratus ! in 
consideration of thy sestertia in peril, their loss being the worst which 
could befall one of thy high estate— I quit calling thee after the foolish 
old King of Phrygia — by this time, I say (meaning after having read 
me so far), I have faith to believe thou hast ceased saying tut-tut, and 
art ready to think what ought to be done in such emergency. 

** It were vulgar to ask thee now what shall be done. Rather let 
me say I am thy client; or, better yet, thou art my Ulysses whose 
part it is to give me sound direction. 

*^ And I please myself thinking I see thee when this letter is put into 
thy hand. I see thee read it once, thy countenance all gravity, and then 
again with a smile ; then, hesitation ended, and thy judgment formed, it 
is this, or it is that ; wisdom like Mercury's, promptitude like Caesar's. 

" The sun is now fairly risen. An hour hence two messengers will 
depart from my door, each with a sealed copy hereof ; one of them 
will go by land, the other by sea, so important do I regard it that thou 
shouldst be early and particularly informed of the appearance of our 
enemy in this part of our Roman world. 

" I will await thy answer here. 

*^ Ben-Hur's going and coming will of course be regulated by his 
master, the consul, who, though he exert himself without rest day and 
night, cannot get away under a month. Thou knowest what work it 
is to assemble and provide for an army destined to operate in a deso- 
late, townless country. 

** I saw the Jew yesterday in the Grove of Daphne ; and if he be 
not there now, he is certainly in the neighborhood, making it easy for 
me to keep him in eye. Indeed, wert thou to ask me where he is now, 
I should say, with the most positive assurance, he is to be found at the 
old Orchard of Palms, under the tent of the traitor Sheik Ilderim, 
who cannot long escape our strong hand. Be not surprised if Maxen- 
tios, as his first measure, places the Arab on ship for forwarding to Rome. 

<* I am so particular about the whereabouts of the Jew because it will 
be important to thee, illustrious I when thou comest to consider what 
is to be done ; for already I know, and by the knowledge I flatter my- 
self I am growing in wisdom, that in every scheme involving human 
action there are three elements always to be taken into account — ^time, 
place, and agency. 

"If thou sayest this is the place, have thou then no hesitancy in 
trusting the business to thy most loving friend, who would be thy apt- 
est scholar as well Messala.'* 



B£N.HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 287 



Chapter II. 

About the time the couriers depaited from Messala's door 
with the despatches (it being yet the early morning hour), 
Ben-Hur entered Ilderim's tent. He had taken a plunge 
into the lake, and breakfasted, and appeared now in an under- 
tunic, sleeveless, and with skirt scarcely reaching to the knee. 

The sheik saluted him from the divan. 

"I give thee peace, son of Arrius," he said, with admi- 
ration, for, in truth, he had never seen a more perfect illus- 
tration of glowing, powerful, confident manhood. '* I give 
thee peace and good-will. The horses are ready, I am ready. 
And thou?" 

** The peace thou givest me, good sheik, I give thee in 
return. 1 thank thee for so much good-will. I am ready." 

Ilderim clapped his hands. 

"J will have the horses brought Be seated." 

"Are they yoked?" 

" No." 

" Then suffer me to serve myself," said Ben-Hur. " It is 
needful that I make the acquaintance of thy Arabs. I must 
know them by name, O sheik, that I may speak to them 
singly ; nor less must I know their temper, for they are like 
men : if bold, the better of scolding; if timid, the better of 
praise and flattery. Let the servants bring me the harness." 

" And the chariot ?" asked the sheik. 

"I will let the chariot alone to-day. In its place, let 
them bring me a fifth horse, if thou hast it ; he should be 
barebacked, and fleet as the others." 

Ilderim's wonder was aroused, and he summoned a ser- 
vant immediately. 

"Bid them bring the harness for the four," he said; 
" the harness for the four, and the bridle for Sirius." 

Ilderim then arose. 

" Sirius is my love, and I am his, O son of Arrius. We 
have been comrades for twenty years — in tent, in battle^ m 



288 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

all stages of the desert we have been comrades. I will show 
him to you." 

Going to the division curtain, he held it, while Ben-Hur 
passed under. The horses came to him in a body. One 
with a small head, luminous eyes, neck like the segment of 
a bended bow, and mighty chest, curtained thickly by a 
profusion of mane soft and wavy as a damsel's locks, nick- 
ered low and gladly at sight of him. 

"Good horse," said the sheik, patting the dark -brown 
cheek. "Good horse, good - morning." Turning then to 
Ben-Hur, he added, " This is Sirius, father oi the four here. 
Mira, the mother, awaits our return, being too precious to 
be hazarded in a region where there is a stronger hand than 
mine. And much I doubt," he laughed as he spoke — " much 
1 doubt, O son of Arrius, if the tribe could endure her ab- 
sence. She is their glory ; they worship her ; did she gal- 
lop over them, they would laugh. Ten thousand horsemen, 
sons of the desert, will ask to-day, *Have you heard of 
Mira V And to the answer, * She is well,' they will say, 
*God is good ! blessed be God !' " 

"Mira — Sirius — names of stars, are they not, O sheik?" 
asked Ben-Hur, going to each of the four, and to the sire, 
offering his hand. 

"And why not?" replied Ilderim. "Wert thou ever 
abroad on the desert at night ?" 
" No." 

" Then thou canst not know how much we Arabs depend 
upon the stars. We borrow their names in gratitude, and give 
them in love. My fathers all had their Miras, as I have 
mine ; and these children are stars no less. There, see thou, 
is Rigel, and there Antares ; that one is Atair, and he whom 
thou goest to now is Aldebaran, the youngest of the brood, 
but none the worse of that — no, not he ! Against the wind 
he will carry thee till it roar in thy ears like Akaba ; and 
he will go where thou say est, son of Arrius — ay, by the 
glory of Solomon ! he will take thee to the lion's jaws, if 
thou darest so much." 

The harness was brought. With his own hands Ben-Hur 
equipped the horses ; with his own hands he led them out 
of the tent, and there attached the reins. 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 289 

" Bring me Sinus," he said. 

An Arab could not have better sprung to seat on the 
courser's back. 

" And now the reins." 

They were given him, and carefully separated. 

" Good sheik," he said, " I am ready. Let a guide go 
before me to the field, and send some of tby men with 
water." 

There was no trouble at starting. The horses were not 
afraid. Already there seemed a tacit understanding be- 
tween them and the new driver, who had performed his part 
calmly, and with the confidence which always begets confi- 
dence. The order of going was precisely that of driving, 
except that Ben-Hur sat upon Sirius instead of standing in 
the chariot. Ildcrim's spirit arose. He combed his beard, 
and smiled with satisfaction as he muttered, ^^ He is not a 
Roman, no, by the splendor of God !" He followed on 
foot, the entire tenantry of the dowar — men, women, and 
children — pouring after him, participants all in his solicitude, 
if not in his confidence. 

The field, when reached, proved ample and well fitted for 
the training, which Ben-Hur began immediately by driving 
the four at first slowly, and in perpendicular lines, and then 
in wide circles. Advancing a step in the course, he put 
them next into a trot ; again progressing, he pushed into a 
gallop ; at length he contracted the circles, and yet later 
drove eccentrically here and there, right, left, forward, and 
without a break. An hour was thus occupied. Slowing 
the gait to a walk, he drove up to Dderim. 

" The work is done, nothing now but practice," he said. 
" I give you joy. Sheik Ilderim, that you have such servants 
as these. See," he continued, dismounting and going to the 
horses, " see, the gloss of their red coats is without spot ; 
they breathe lightly as when I began. I give thee great 
joy, and it will go hard if" — he turned his flashing eyes 
upon the old man's face — " if we have not the victory and 
our—" 

He stopped, colored, bowed. At the sheik's side he ob- 
served, for the first time, Balthasar, leaning upon his staff, 
and two women closely veiled. At one oi l\i"ft \a.\XAt \ia 
19 



290 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

looked a second time, saying to himself, with a flutter about 
his heart, " 'Tis she — 'tis the Egyptian !" Dderim picked 
up his broken sentence — 

" The victory, and our revenge !" Then he. said aloud, 
"I am not afraid ; I am glad. Son of Arrius, thou art the 
man. Be the end like the beginning, and thou shalt see of 
what stufE is the lining of the hand of an Arab who is able 
to give." 

" I thank thee, good sheik," Ben-Hur returned, modestly. 
" Let the servants bring drink for the horses." 

With his own hands he gave the water. 

Remounting Sirius, he renewed the training, going as be- 
fore from walk to trot, from trot to gallop ; finally, be push- 
ed the steady racers into the run, gradually quickening it to 
full speed. The performance then became exciting; and 
there were applause for the dainty handling of the reins, and 
admiration for the four, which were the same, whether they 
flew forward or wheeled in varying curvature. In their 
action there were unity, power, grace, pleasure, all without 
effort or sign of labor. The admiration was unmixed with 
pity or reproach, which would have been as well bestowed 
upon swallows in their evening flight. 

In the midst of the exercises, and the attention they re- 
ceived from all the bystanders, Malluch came upon the 
ground, seeking the sheik. 

" I have a message for you, O sheik," he said, availing 
himself of a moment he supposed favorable for the speech 
— " a message from Simonides, the merchant." 

" Simonides ! " ejaculated the Arab. " Ah ! 'tis well. May 
Abaddon take all his enemies !" 

" He bade me give thee first the holy peace of God," Mal- 
luch continued ; " and then this despatch, with prayer that 
thou read it the instant of receipt." 

Dderim, standing in his place, broke the sealing of the 
package delivered to him, and from a wrapping of fine linen 
took two letters, which he proceeded to read. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OP THE CHRIST. 291 



[No. 1.] 

^^Simonidea to Sheik Itderim, 

"0 friend! 

" Assure thyself first of a place in mj inner heart 

" Then— 

" There is in thy dowar a youth of fair presence, calling himself the 
son of Arrius ; and such he is by adoption. 

" He is very dear to me. 

^^ He hath a wonderful history, which I will tell thee ; come thou to- 
day or to-morrow, that I may tell thee the history, and have thy 
counsel. 

** Meantime, favor all his requests, so they be not against honor. 
Should there be need of reparation, I am bound to thee for it. 

" That I have interest in this youth, keep thou private. 

" Remember me to thy other guest. He, his daughter, thyself, and 
all whom thou mayst choose to be of thy company, must depend upon 
me at the Circus the day of the games. I have seats already en- 
gaged. 

" To thee and all thme, peace. 

" What should I be, my friend, but thy friend ? 

" SiMONIDKS." 

[No. 2.] 

*^ Simonides to Sheik Uderim, 

" friend ! 

" Out of the abundance of my experience, I send you a word. 

'^ There is a sign which all persons not Romans, and who have 
moneys or goods subject to despoilment, accept as warning — ^that is, 
the arrival at a seat of power of some high Roman official charged 
with authority. 

*' To-day comes the Consul Maxentius. 

" Be thou warned ! 

" Another word of advice. 

" A conspiracy, to be of effect against thee, friend, must include 
the Herods as parties ; thou hast great properties in their dominions. 

" Wherefore keep thou watch. 

" Send this morning to thy trusty keepers of the roads leading south 
from Antioch, and bid them search every courier going and coming ; 
if they find private despatches relating to thee or thy affaurs, thou 
ihovMst see them. 

" You should have received this yesterday, though it is not too late, if 
you act promptly. 

" If couriers left Antioch this morning, your messengers know the 
byways, and can get before them with your oitiers. 

" Do not hesitate. 

** Burn this after reading. 

" mj friend I tby fnend. ^ssassscssvlT 



202 BEX-HUK: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

nderim read the letters a second time, and refolded them 
in the linen wrap, and put the package under his girdle. 

The exercises in the field continued but a little longer 
— ^in all about two hours. At their conclusion, Ben-Hur 
brought the four to a walk, and drove to Ederim. 

" With leave, O sheik," he said, " I will return thy Arabs 
to the tent, and bring them out again this afternoon." 

Uderim walked to him as he sat on Sirius, and said, '* I 
give them to you, son of Arrius, to do with as you will until 
after the games. You have done with them in two hours 
what the Roman — may jackals gnaw his bones fleshless ! — 
could not in as many weeks. We will win — by the splen- 
dor of God, we will win !" 

At the tent Ben-Hur remained with the horses while they 
were being cared for ; then, after a plunge in the lake and 
a cup of arrack with the sheik, whose flow of spirits was 
royally exuberant, he dressed himself in his Jewish garb 
again, and walked with Malluch on into the Orchard. 

There was much conversation between the two, not all 
of it important. One part, however, must not be overlooked. 
Ben-Hur was speaking. 

" I will give you," he said, " an order for my property 
stored in the khan this side the river by the Seleucian 
Bridge. Bring it to me to-day, if you can. And, good 
Malluch — if I do not overtask you — " 

Malluch protested heartily his willingness to be of service. 

"Thank you, Malluch, thank you," said Ben-Hur. "I 
will take you at your word, remembering that we are breth- 
ren of the old tribe, and that the enemy is a Roman. First, 
then — as you are a man of business, which I much fear 
Sbeik Ilderim is not — ^" 

" Arabs seldom are," said Malluch, gravely. 

" Nay, I do not impeach their shrewdness, Malluch. It 
is well, however, to look after them. To save all forfeit or 
hindrance in connection with the race, you would put me 
perfectly at rest by going to the oflSce of the Circus, and 
seeing that he has complied with every preliminary rule ; 
and if you can get a copy of the rules, the service may be 
of great avail to me. I would like to know the colors I 
am to wear, and particulaTly ttie \i\m3^>ct oi \»\i^ crypt I am 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 293 

to occupy at the starting ; if it be next Messala's on the 
right or left, it is well ; if not, and you can have it changed 
so as to bring me next the Roman, do so. Have you good 
memory, Malluch ?" 

" It has failed me, but never, son of Arrius, where the 
heart helped it as now." 

" I will venture, then, to charge you with one further 
service. I saw yesterday that Messala was proud of his char- 
ioty as he might be, for the best of Csesar's scarcely surpass 
it. Can you not make its display an excuse which will en- 
able you to find if it be light or heavy ? I would like to 
have its exact weight and measurements — and, Malluch, 
though you fail in all else, bring me exactly the height his 
axle stands above the ground. You understand, Malluch ? 
I do not wish him to have any actual advantage of me. I 
do not care for his splendor; if I beat him, it will make 
his fall the harder, and my triumph the more complete. If 
there are advantages really important, I want them." 

" I see, I see 1" said Malluch. " A line dropped from the 
centre of the axle is what you want." 

" Thou hast it ; and be glad, Malluch — it is the last of 
my commissions. Let us return to the dowar." 

At the door of the tent they found a servant replenish- 
ing the smoke-stained bottles of leben freshly made, and 
stopped to refresh themselves. Shortly afterwards Malluch 
returned to the city. 

During their absence, a messenger well mounted had been 
despatched with orders as suggested by Simonides. He 
was an Arab, and carried nothing written. 



Chapter III. 

'^ Iras, the daughter of Balthasar, sends me with saluta- 
tion and a message," said a servant to Ben-Hur, who was 
taking his ease in the tent. 

" Give me the message." 

" Would it please you to accompany her upon the lake ?" 

" I will carry the answer myself, TdVYi^T ^ci^ 



294 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

His shoes were brought him, and in a few minutes Ben- 
Hur sallied out to find the fair Egyptian. The shadow of 
the mountains was creeping over the Orchard of Palms in 
advance of night. Afar through the trees came the tink- 
ling of sheep-bells, the lowing of cattle, and the voices of 
the herdsmen bringing their charges home. Life at the 
Orchard, it should be remembered, was in all respects as 
pastoral as life on the scantier meadows of the desert. 

Sheik Ilderim had witnessed the exercises of the after- 
noon, being a repetition of those of the morning; after 
which he had gone to the city in answer to the invitation 
of Simonides ; he might return in the night ; but, consid- 
ering the immensity of the field to be talked over with his 
friend, it was hardly possible. Ben-Hur, thus left alone, 
had seen his horses cared for ; cooled and purified himself 
in the lake ; exchanged the field garb for his customary vest- 
ments, all white, as became a Sadducean of the pure blood ; 
supped early ; and, thanks to the strength of youth, was well 
recovered from the violent exertion he had undergone. 

It is neither wise nor honest to detract from beauty as a 
quality. There cannot be a refined soul insensible to its 
influence. The story of Pygmalion and his statue is as nat- 
ural as it is poetical. Beauty is of itself a power ; and it 
was now drawing Ben-Hur. 

The Egyptian was to him a wonderfully beautiful woman 
— beautiful of face, beautiful of form. In his thought she 
always appeared to him as he saw her at the fountain ; and 
he felt the influence of her voice, sweeter because in tearful 
expression of gratitude to him, and of her eyes — the large, 
soft, black, almond-shaped eyes declarative of her race — eyes 
which looked more than lies in the supremest wealth of 
words to utter; and recurrences of the thought of her were 
returns just so frequent of a figure tall, slender, graceful, 
refined, wrapped in rich and floating drapery, wanting noth- 
ing but a fitting mind to make her, like the Shulamite, and 
in the same sense, terrible as an army with banners. In 
other words, as she returned to his fancy, the whole passion- 
ate Song of Solomon came with her, inspired by her pres- 
ence. With this sentiment and that feeling, he was going 
to see if she actually iusti&ed t\iem. It ^aa not love that 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 295 

was taking him, but admiration and cariosity which might 
be the heralds of love. 

The landing was a simple affair, consisting of a short 
stairway, and a platfonn garnished by some lamp-posts ; yet 
at the top of the steps he paused, arrested by what he be- 
held. 

There was a shallop resting upon the clear water lightly 
as an egg-shell. An Ethiop — the camel-driver at the Cas- 
talian fount — occupied the rower's place, his blackness in- 
tensified by a livery of shining white. All the boat aft was 
cushioned and carpeted with stuffs brilliant with Tyrian red. 
On the rudder seat sat the Egyptian herself, sunk in Indian 
shawls and a very vapor of most delicate veils and scarfs. 
Her arms were bare to the shoulders ; and, not merely fault- 
less in shape, they had the effect of compelling attention 
to them — their pose, their action, their expression ; the hands, 
the fingers even, seemed endowed with graces and meaning ; 
each was an object of beauty. The shoulders and neck 
were protected from the evening air by an ample scarf, 
which yet did not hide them. 

In the glance he gave her, Ben-Hur paid no attention to 
these details. There was simply an impression made upon 
him ; and, like strong light, it was a sensation, not a thing 
of sight or enumeration. Thy lips are like a thread of scar- 
let ; thy temples are like a piece of pomegranate within thy 
locks. Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away ; for, 
lo ! the winter is past, the rain is over and gone ; the fiowers 
appear on the earth ; the time of the singing of birds is 
come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in the land — such 
was the impression she made upon him translated into 
words. 

" Come," she said, observing him stop, " come, or I shall 
think you a poor sailor." 

The red of his cheek deepened. Did she know anything 
of his life upon the sea? He descended to the platform 
at once. 

^^ I was afraid," he said, as he took the vacant seat before 
her. 

"Of what?" 

" Of sinking the boat," he replied, amWixig. 



296 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

" Wait until we are in deeper water," she said, giving a 
signal to the black, who dipped the oars, and they were off. 

If love and Ben-Hur were enemies, the latter was never 
more at mercy. The Egyptian sat where he could not but 
see her ; she, whom he had already engrossed in memory as 
his ideal of the Shulamite. With her eyes giving light to 
his, the stars might come out, and he not see them ; and so 
they did. The night might fall with unrelieved darkness 
everywhere else ; her look would make illumination for him. 
And then, as everybody knows, given youth and such com- 
panionship, there is no situation in which the fancy takes 
such complete control as upon tranquil waters under a calm 
night sky, warm with summer. It is so easy at such time to 
glide imperceptibly out of the commonplace into the ideal. 

" Give me the rudder," he said. 

"No," she replied, "that were to reverse the relation. 
Did I not ask you to ride with me ? I am indebted to you, 
and would begin payment. You may talk and I will listen, 
or I will talk and you will listen : that choice is yours ; 
but it shall be mine to choose where we go, and the way 
thither." 

" And where may that be ?" 

" You are alarmed again." 

" O fair Egyptian, I but asked you the first question of 
everv captive." 

"Call me Egypt." 

" I would rather call you Iras." 

" You may think of me by that name, but call me 
Egypt." 

" Egypt is a country, and means many people." 

" Yes, yes ! And such a country !" 

" I see ; it is to Egypt we are going." 

" Would we were ! I would be so glad." 

She sighed as she spoke. 

" You have no care for me, then," he said. 

" Ah, by that I know you were never there." 

" I never was." 

" Oh, it is the land where there are no unhappy people, the 

desired of all the rest of the earth, the mother of all the gods, 

and tberetore supremely \Aeat. T\iet%,0 son of Arrius, 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 297 

there the happy find increase of happiness, and the wretched, 
going, drink once of the sweet water of the sacred river, 
and langh and sing, rejoicing like children.'' 

" Are not the very poor with you there as elsewhere ?" 
. " The very poor in Egypt are the very simple in wants 
and ways," she replied. "They have no wish beyond 
enough, and how little that is, a Greek or a Roman cannot 
know." 

" But I am neither Greek nor Roman." 

She laughed. 

" I have a garden of roses, and in the midst of it is a 
tree, and its bloom is the richest of all. Whence came it, 
think you ?" 

" From Persia, the home of the rose." 

" No." 

"From India, then." 

" No." 

" Ah ! one of the isles of Greece." 

" I will tell you," she said : " a traveller found it perishing 
by the roadside on the plain of Rephaim." 

" Oh, in Judea !" 

" I put it in the earth left bare by the receding Nile, and 
the soft south wind blew over the desert and nursed it, and 
the sun kissed it in pity ; after which it could not else than 
grow and flourish. I stand in its shade now, and it thanks 
me with much perfume. As with the roses, so with the 
men of Israel. Where shall they reach perfection but in 
Egypt?" 

" Moses was but one of millions." 

" Nay, there was a reader of dreams. Will you forget 
him?" 

" The friendly Pharaohs are dead." 

" Ah, yes! The river by which they dwelt sings to them 
in their tombs ; yet the same sun tempers the same air to 
the same people." 

" Alexandria is but a Roman town." 

" She has but exchanged sceptres. Caesar took from her 
that of the sword, and in its place left that of learning. Go 
with me to the Brucheium, and I will show you the college 
of nations ; to the Serapeion, and see thepeTteCl\QiViQi«tOK^- 



298 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

tectare; to the Library, and read the immortals; to the 
theatre, and hear the heroics of the Greeks and Hindoos ; 
to the qoay, and count the triumphs of commerce ; descend 
with me into the streets, O son of Arrius, and, when the 
philosophers have dispersed, and taken with them the mas- 
ters of all the arts, and all the gods have home their vota- 
ries, and nothing remains of the day but its pleasures, you 
shall hear the stories that have amused men from the begin- 
ning, and the songs which will never, never die." 

Als he listened, Ben-Hur was carried back to the ni^fht 
when, in the summer-hoase in Jenisalem, his motherfin 
much the same poetry of patriotism, declaimed the departed 
glories of IsraeL 

"I see now why you wish to be called I^ypt Will 
you sing me a song if I call you by that name ? I heard 
you last night." 

"That was a hymn of the Nile," she answered, "a la- 
ment which I sing when I would fancy I smell the breath 
of the desert, and hear the surge of the dear old river ; let 
me rather give you a piece of the Indian mind. When we 
get to Alexandria, I will take you to the comer of the street 
where you can hear it from the daughter of the Granga, who 
taught it to me. Eapila, you should know, was one of the 
most revered of the Hindoo sages." 

Then, as if it were a natural mode of expression, she be- 
gan the song. 

EAPILA. 



'* Eapila, Eapila, so young and true, 
I yearn for a glory like thine, 
And hail thee from battle to ask anew, 
Can ever thy Valor be mine? 

"EapiU sat on his charger dun, 

A hero never so grave : 
' Who loveth all things hath fear of none, 

Tis love that maketh me brave. 
A woman gave me her soul one day, 
The soul of my soul to be alway ; 

Thence came my Valor to me, 

Go try it— try \t— wid we.* 



BEX-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 299 

n. 

** Eapila, Eapila, so old and gray, 
The queen is calling for me ; 
But ere I go hence, I wish thou wouldst say, 
How Wisdom first came to thee. 

*^ Eapila stood in his temple door, 
A priest in eremite guise : 
* It did not come as men get their lore, 

'Tis faith that maketh me wise. 
A woman gave me her heart one day, 
\ The heart of my heart to be alway ; 

Thence came my Wisdom to me, 
Go try it — try it — and see.' " 

Ben-Hur had not time to express his thanks for the son^^ 
before the keel of the boat grated upon the underlying 
sand, and, next moment, the bow ran upon the shore. 

" A quick voyage, O Egypt I" he cried. 

"And a briefer stay !" she replied, as, with a strong push, 
the black sent them shooting into the open water again. 

" You will give me the rudder now." 

" Oh no," said she, laughing. " To you, the chariot ; to 
me, the boat. We are merely at the lake's end, and the les- 
son is that I must not sing any more. Having been to 
Egypt, let us now to the Grove of Daphne." 

" Without a song on the way?" he said, in deprecation. 

" Tell me something of the Roman from whom you saved 
us to-day," she asked. 

The request struck Ben-Hur unpleasantly. 

"I wish this were the Nile," he said, evasively. "The 
kings and queens, having slept so long, might come down 
from their tombs, and ride with us." 

"They were of the colossi, and would sink our boat. 
The pygmies would be preferable. But tell me of the 
Roman. He is very wicked, is he not ?" 

" I cannot say." 

" Is he of noble family, and rich ?" 

" I cannot speak of his riches." 

"How beautiful his horses were I and the bed of his 
chariot was gold, and the wheels ivory. And his audacity ! 
The bystanders laughed as he rode away ; they, who were 
so nearly under his wheels !" 



300 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

She laughed at the recollection. 

" They were rabble," said Ben-Hur, bitterly. 

" He must be one of the monsters who are said to be 
growing up in Rome — Apollos ravenous as Cerberus. 
Does he reside in Antioch V 

" He is of the East somewhere." 

" Egypt would suit him better than Syria." 

" Hardly," Ben-Hur replied. " Cleopatra is dead." 

That instant the lamps burning before the door of the 
tent came into view. 

" The dowar !" she cried. 

" Ah, then, we have not been to Egypt. I have not seen 
Kamak or Philae or Abydos. This is not the Nile. I 
have but heard a song of India, and been boating in a 
dream." 

" Philae — Kamak, Mourn rather that you have not seen 
the Rameses at Aboo Simbul, looking at which makes it so 
easy to think of God, the maker of the heavens and earth. 
Or why should you mourn at all ? Let us go on to the 
river; and if I cannot sing" — she laughed — "because I 
have said I would not, yet I can tell you stories of Egypt" 

" Go on ! Ay, till morning comes, and the evening, and 
the next morning !" he said, vehemently. 

" Of what shall my stories be? Of the mathematicians P' 

" Oh no." 

" Of the philosophers ?" 

" No, no." 

" Of the magicians and genii ?" 

"If you will." , y 

"Of war?" 

" Yes." 

"Of lover 

" Yes." 

" I will tell you a cure for love. It is the story of a queen. 
Listen reverently. The papyrus from which it was taken by 
the priests of Philae was wrested from the hand of the her- 
oine herself. It is correct in form, and must be true : 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 30I 

NE-NE-HOFRA. 

I. 

" There is no parallelism in human lives. 

** No life runs a straight line. 

** The most perfect life develops as a circle, and terminates in its be- 
ginning, making it impossible to say, This is the commencement, that 
the end. 

*^ Perfect lives are the treasures of God; of great days he wears 
them on the ring-finger of his heart hand." 

n. 

" Ne-ne-hof ra dwelt in a house close by Essouan, yet closer to the first 
cataract — so close, indeed, that the sound of the eternal battle waged 
there between river and rocks was of the place a part 

*^She grew in beauty day by day, so that it was said of her, as of the 
poppies m her father's garden. What will she not be in the time of 
blooming ? 

** Each year of her life was the beginning of a new song more delight- 
ful than any of those which went before. 

" Child was she of a marriage between the North, bounded by the sea, 
and the South, bounded by the desert beyond the Luna mountains ; and 
one gave her its passion, the other its genius ; so when they beheld 
her, both laughed, saying, not meanly, * She is mine,' but generously, 
* Ha, ha ! she is ours.* 

** All excellences in nature contributed to her perfection and rejoiced 
in her presence. Did she come or go, the birds ruffled their wings in 
greeting ; the unruly winds sank to cooling zephyrs ; the white lotus 
rose from the water's depth to look at her ; the solemn river loitered 
on its way ; the palm-trees, nodding, shook all their plumes ; and they 
seemed to say, this one, I gave her of my grace ; that, I gave her of 
my brightness ; the other, I gave her of my purity : and so each as it 
had a virtue to give. 

** At twelve, Ne-ne-hof ra was the delight of Essouan ; at sixteen, the 
fame of her beauty was universal ; at twenty, there was never a day 
which did not bring to her door princes of the desert on swift camels, 
and lords of Egypt in gilded barges ; and, going away disconsolate, 
they reported everywhere, *■ I have seen her, and she is not a woman, 
but Athor herself.' " 

m. 

" Now of the three hundred and thirty successors of good King Menes, 
eighteen were Ethiopians, of whom Orsetes was one hundred and ten 
years old. He had reigned seventy-six years. Under him the people 
thrived, and the land groaned with fatness of plenty. He practised 
wisdom because, having seen so much, he knew what it was. He dwelt 
in Memphis, having there his prmcipal palace, his arsenals, and his 



302 BEN-HUB: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

treasure-house. Frequently be went down to Butos to talk with La- 
tona. 

** The wife of the good king died. Too old was she for perfect em- 
balmment ; yet he loved her, and mourned as the inconsolable ; seeing 
which, a colchyte presumed one day to speak to him. 

" * Orsetes, I am astonished that one so wise and great should not 
know how to cure a sorrow like this.' 

** *TelI me a cure,' said the king. 

" Three times the colchyte kissed the floor, and then he replied, know- 
ing the dead could not hear him, * At Essouan lives Ne-ne-hofra, beau- 
tiful as Athor the beautiful. Send for her. She has refused all the 
lords and princes, and I know not how many kings ; but who can say 
no to Oraetes ?' " 

IV. 

'* Ne-ne-hofra descended the Nile in a barge richer than any ever be- 
fore seen, attended by an army in barges each but a little less fine. 
All Nubia and Egypt, and a myriad from Libya, and a host of Troglo- 
dytes, and not a few Macrobii from beyond the Mountains of the Moon, 
lined the tented shores to see the cortege pass, wafted by perfumed 
winds and golden oars. 

** Through a dromos of sphinxes and couchant double-winged lions she 
was borne, and set down before Oraetes sitting on a throne specially 
erected at the sculptured pylon of the palace. He raised her up, gave 
her place by his side, clasped the uraeus upon her arm, kissed her, and 
Ne-ne-hofra was queen of all queens. 

" That was not enough for the wise Oraetes ; he wanted love, and a 
queen happy in his love. So he dealt with her tenderly, showing her 
his possessions, cities, palaces, people ; his armies, his ships : and with 
his own hand he led her through his treasure-house, saying, * 0, Ne- 
ne-hofra I but kiss me in love, and they are all thine.' 

'* And, thinking she could be happy, if she was not then, she kissed 
him once, twice, thrice — kissed him thrice, his hundred and ten years 
notwithstanding. 

" The first year she was happy, and it was very short ; the third year 
she was wretched, and it was very long ; then she was enlightened : 
that which she thought love of Oraetes was only daze of his power. 
Well for her had the daze endured ! Her spirits deserted her ; she 
had long spells of tears, and her women could not remember when 
they heard her laugh; of the roses on her cheeks only ashes re- 
mained ; she languished and faded gradually, but certainly. Some said 
she was haunted by the Erinnyes for cruelty to a lover ; others, that 
she was stricken by some god envious of Oraetes. Whatever the cause 
of her decline, the charms of the magicians availed not to restore her, 
and the prescript of the doctor was equally without virtue. Ne-ne- 
hofra was given over to die. 

" Oraetes chose a crypt for her up in the tombs of the queens ; and, 
calling the master sculptors au^ paVxi\ei^ t^ Memyhis, he set them to 



BEX-HUB: A TALE OF THE CHBIST. 803 

work upon designs more elaborate than any even in the great galleries 
of tho dead kings. 

*^ * thou beautiful as Athor herself, my queen !* said the king, whose 
hundred and thirteen years did not lessen his ardor as a lover, * Tell 
me, I pray, the ailment of which, alas t thou art so certainly perishing 
before my eyes.* 

** * You will not love me any more if I tell you,' she said, in doubt 
and fear. 

** * Not love you I I will love you the more. I swear it, by the genii 
of Amente ! by the eye of Osiris, I swear it! Speak t' he cried, pas- 
sionate as a lover, authoritative as a king. 

** * Hear, then,' she said. ' There is an anchorite, the oldest and ho- 
liest of his class, in a cave near Essouan. His name is Menopha. Ho 
was my teacher and guardian. Send for him, Orsates, and he will 
tell you that you seek to know ; he will also help you find the cure for 
my a£9iction.* 

" Orotes arose rejoicing. He went away in spirit a hundred yean 
younger than when he came.'* 

V. 

'* * Speak I' said OrsBtes to Menopha, in the palace at Memphis. 

** And Menopha replied, *■ Most mighty king, if vou were young, I 
should not answer, because I am yet pleased with life ; as it is, I will 
say the queen, like any other mortal, is paying the penalty of a crime.* 

** * A crime 1' exclaimed Orstes, angrily. 

" Menopha bowed very low. 

" * Yes ; to herself.* 

'* * I am not in mood for riddles,* said the king. 

*< * What I say is not a riddle, as you shall hoar. Ne-ne-hof ra grew 
up under my eyes, and confided every incident of her life to me ; 
among others, that she loved the son of her father's gardener, Barbec 
by name.* 

*' OrsDtcs's frown, strangely enough, began to dissipate. 

'* * With that love in her heart, king, she came to you ; of that love 
she is dying.' 

** * Where is the gardener's son now ?* asked Oroetes. 

" * In Essouan.' 

** The king went out and gave two orders. To one oeris he said. 
* Go to Essouan and bring hither a youth named Barbec. You will 
find him in the garden of the queen's father;' to another, * Assemble 
workmen and cattle and tools, and construct for me in Lake Chem- 
mis an island, which, though laden with a temple, a palace, and a gar- 
den, and all manner of trees bearing fruit, and all manner of vines, 
shall nevertheless float about as the winds may blow it. Make the 
island, and let it bo fully furnished by the time the moon begins to 
wane.' 

** Then to the queen he said, 

** * Be of cheer. I know all, and have sent for Barbec* 

** Ne-ne-hofra kissed his hands. 



304 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

" * You shall have him to yourself, and he you to himself; nor shall 
any disturb your loves for a year.* 

** She kissed his feet ; he raised her, and kissed her in return ; and the 
rose came back to her cheek, the scarlet to her lips, and the laugh to 
her heart" 

VI. 

*' For one year Ne-ne-hof ra and Barbec the gardener floated as the 
winds blew on the island of Chemmis, which became one of the won* 
dera of the world ; never a home of love more beautiful ; one year, 
seeing no one and existing for no one but themselves. Then she re- 
turned in state to the palace in Memphis. 

" * Now whom lovest thou best ?' asked the king. 

" She kissed his cheek and said, * Take me back, good king, for I 
am cured.' 

" Oraetes laughed, none the worse, that moment, of his hundred and 
fourteen years. 

*^ *Then it is true, as Menopha said : ha, ha, ha ! it is true, the cure 
of love is love.* 

" * Even so,* she replied. 

*^ Suddenly his manner changed, and his look became terrible. 

** * I did not find it so,* he said. 

" She shrank affrighted. 

" * Thou guilty !' he continued. * Thy offence to Oraetes the man he 
forgives ; but thy offence to Oraetes the king remains to be punished.' 

" She cast herself at his feet. 

*** Hush!* he cried. * Thou art dead I* 

** He clapped his hands, and a terrible procession came in — a pro- 
cession of parachistes, or embalmers, each with some implement or 
material of his loathsome art. 

" The king pointed to Ne-ne-hof ra. 

" * She is dead. Do thy work well.' ** 

vn. 

" Ne-ne-hof ra the beautiful, after seventy-two days, was carried to 
the crypt chosen for her the year before, and laid with her queenly 
predecessors ; yet there was no funeral procession in her honor across 
the sacred lake.** 

At the conclusion of the story, Ben-Hur was sitting at 
the Egyptian's feet, and her hand upon the tiller was cov- 
ered by his hand. 

" Menopha was wrong," he said. 

" How r 

" Love lives by loving." 

"Then there is. no cure for it?" 

'^ Yes. Oraetes found t\ie cuie " 



BEN.HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 305 

"What was it?" 
" Death." 

" You are a good listener, son of Arrius*" 
And so with conversation and stories, they whiled the 
hours away. As they stepped ashore, she said, 
" To-morrow we go to the city." 
"But you will be at the games?" he asked. 
" Oh yes." 

" I will send you my colors." 
With that they separated. 



Chapter IV. 

Ilderim returned to the dowar next day about the third 
hour. As he dismounted, a man whom he recognized as 
of his own tribe came to him and said, ** sheik, I was bid- 
den give thee this package, with request that thou read it 
at once. If there be answer, I was to wait thy pleasure." 

Ilderim gave the package immediate attention. The seal 
was already broken. The address ran, To Valerius Gratus 
at Ccesarea. 

"Abaddon take him 1" growled the sheik, at discovering a 
letter in Latin. 

Had the missive been in Greek or Arabic, he could have 
read it ; as it was, the utmost he could make out was the 
signature in bold Boman letters — Messala — whereat his 
eyes twinkled. 

"Where is the young Jew?" he asked. 

" In the field with the horses," a servant replied. 

The sheik replaced the papyrus in its envelopes, and, 
tucking the package under his girdle, remounted the horse. 
That moment a stranger made his appearance, coming, ap- 
parently, from the city. 

"I am looking for Sheik Ilderim, sumamed the Generous," 
the stranger said. 

His language and attire bespoke him a Roman. 

What he could not read, he yet could speak ; so the old 
Arab answered, with dignity, " I am Sheik Ildeivm« 
20 



306 B£K^.HUB: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

The man's ejes fell ; he raised them again, and said, with 
forced composore, *^ I heard yon had need of a driver for 
the games.'' 

Bderim's lip nnder the white mustache coiled contempt- 
noosly. 

"Go thy way," he said. " I have a driver." 

He tamed to ride away, bat the man, lingering, spoke 
again. 

"Sheik, I am a lover of horses, and they say yoa have 
the most beaatif al in the world." 

The old man was touched; he drew rein, as if on the 
point of yielding to the flattery, but finally replied, "Not 
to-day, not to-day ; some other time I will show them to 
yon. I am too busy jost now." 

He rode to the field, while the stranger betook himself 
to town again with a smiling countenance. He had accom- 
plished his mission. 

And every day thereafter, down to the great day of the 
games, a man — sometimes two or three men— came to the 
sheik at the Orchard, pretending to seek an engagement as 
driver. 

In sach manner Messala kept watch over Ben-Hor. 




Chapter V. 

The sheik waited, well satisfied, until Ben-Hur drew his 
horses off the field for the forenoon — well satisfied, for he 
had seen them, after being put through all the other paces, 
run full speed in such manner that it did not seem there 
were one the slowest and another the fastest — run, in other 
words, as the four were one. 

"This afternoon, O sheik, I will give Sirius back to you." 
Ben-Hur patted the neck of the old horse as he spoke. " I 
will give him back, and take to the chariot." 
** §0 soon f ' Ilderim asked. 
With such as these, good sheik, one day suffices. They 
mtt afraid; they have a man's intelligence, and they 
Um eitttiae. TViVa oue^'' \i<^ %\\<K)k a rein over the 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 307 

back of the youngest of the four — " you called him Aldeb- 
aran, I believe — is the suriftest; in once round a stadium 
he would lead the others thrice his length." 

Ilderim pulled his beard, and said, with twinkling eyes, 
"Aldebaran is the swiftest; but what of the slowest?" 

"This is he." Ben-Hur shook the rein over Antares. 
" This is he : but he will win, for, look you, sheik, he will 
run his utmost all day — all day ; and, as the sun goes down, 
he will reach his swiftest." 

" Right again," said Dderim. 

" I have but one fear, O sheik." 

The sheik became doubly serious. 

" In his greed of triumph, a Roman cannot keep honor 
pure. In the games — all of them, mark you-r-their tricks 
are infinite ; in chariot-racing their knavery extends to ev- 
erything — from horse to driver, from driver to master. 
Wherefore, good sheik, look well to all thou hast ; from 
this till the trial is over, let no stranger so much as see the 
horses. Would you be perfectly safe, do more — ^keep watch 
over them with armed hand as well as sleepless eye ; then I 
will have no fear of the end." 

At the door of the tent they dismounted. 

"What you say shall be attended to. By the splendor 
of God, no hand shall come near them except it belong to 
one of the faithful. To-night I will set watches. But, son 
of Arrius " — Ilderim drew forth the package, and opened 
it slowly, while they walked to the divan and seated them- 
selves — " son of Arrius, see thou here, and help me with 
thy Latin." 

He passed the despatch to Ben-Hur. 

"There; read — and read aloud, rendering what thou 
findest into the tongue of thy fathers. Latin is an abom- 
ination." 

Ben-Hur was in good spirits, and began the reading care- 
lessly. ^''''MessalatoGratusP''^ He paused. A premonition 
drove the blood to his heart. Ilderim observed his agita- 
tion. 

" Well ; I am waiting." 

Ben-Hur prayed pardon, and reconmienced the ^aj^^x^ 
which, it is sufficient to say, was one oi X\i^ Axx'^XvaaXft'^ Q»^ 



308 BEX-HUB: A TALE OF THE CHBIST. 

the letter degpaUhed to carefoU j to Gratos bj Messala the 
moTDiiig after the revel in the palace. 

The paragraphs in the beginnlDg were remarkable obIj 
aft proof that the writer had not oatgrown Ins habit of 
mockery ; when thej were passed, and the reader came to 
the parts intended to refresh the memory of Gratns, his voice 
trembled, and twice he stopped to regain his self-controL 
By a strong effort he continued. *^ *' I recaU farther' " he read, 
** * that thoa didst make disposition of the family of Hnr ' '^ 
— ^there the reader again paosed and drew a long breath — 
^ * both of OS at the time supposing the plan hit upon to be the 
most effective possible for the purposes in view, which were 
silence and deHvery over to inevitable bnt natural death.' " 

Here Ben-Hnr broke down ntteriy. The p2^>er fell from 
his hands, and he covered his face. 

** They are dead — dead. I alone am left" 

The sheik had been a sOent, but not nnsympathetic, wit- 
ness of the young man's suffering ; now he arose and said, 
** Son of Arrius, it is for me to b^ thy pardon. Read the 
paper by thyself. When thou art strong enough to give 
the rest of it to me, send word, and I will return." 

He went out of the tent, and nothing in all his life be- 
came him better. 

Ben-Hur flung himself on the divan and gave way to his 
feelings. When somewhat recovered, he recollected that a 
portion of the letter remained nnread, and, taking it up, he 
resumed the reading. " Thou wilt remember," the missive 
ran, ^^ what thou didst with the mother and sister of the 
malefactor ; yet, if now I yield to a desire to learn if they 
be living or dead " — ^Ben-Hur started, and read again, and 
then again, and at last broke into exclamation. ** He does 
not know they are dead; he does not know it! Blessed 
be the name of the Lord ! there is yet hope." He finished 
the sentence, and was strengthened by it, and went on brave- 
ly to the end oi the letter. 

" They are not dead," he said, after reflection ; "they are 
not dead, or he would have heard of it" 

A second reading, more careful than the first, confirmed 
him in the opinion. Then he sent for the sheik. 

** In coming to your hospitable tent^ O sheik," he said, 



BEN-HUR: A TALK OF THE CHRIST. 309 

calmly, when the Arab was seated and they were alone, " it 
was not in my mind to speak of myself farther than to as- 
sure yon I had sufficient training to be intrusted with your 
horses. I declined to tell you my history. But the chances 
which have sent this paper to my hand and given it to me 
to be read are so strange that I feel bidden to trust you with 
everything. And I am the more inclined to do so by knowl- 
edge here conveyed that we are both of us threatened by the 
same enemy, against whom it is needful that we make com- 
mon cause. I will read the letter and give you explanation ; 
after which you will not wonder I was so moved. If you 
thought me weak or childish, you will then excuse me." 

The sheik held his peace, listening closely, until Ben-Hur 
came to the paragraph in which he was particularly men- 
tioned : " * I saw the Jew yesterday in the Grove of Daphne ;' " 
so ran the part, " * and if he be not there now, he is certain- 
ly in the neighborhood, making it easy for me to keep him 
in eye. Indeed, wert thou to ask me where he is now, I 
should say, with the most positive assurance, he is to be 
found at the old Orchard of Palms.' " 

"A — h!" exclaimed Ilderim, in such a tone one might 
hardly say he was more surprised than angry ; at the same 
time, he clutched his beard. 

"*At the old Orchard of Palms,'" Ben-Hur repeated, 
" * under the tent of the traitor sheik Ederim.' " 

" Traitor I — I ?" the old man cried, in his shrillest tone, 
while lip and beard curled with ire, and on his forehead 
and neck the veins swelled and beat as they would burst. 

"Yet a moment, sheik," said Ben-Hur, with a depreca- 
tory gesture. "Such is Messala's opinion of you. Hear 
his threat." And he read on — " * under the tent of the 
traitor sheik Ilderim, who cannot long escape our strong 
hand. Be not surprised if Maxentius, as his first measure, 
places the Arab on ship for forwarding to Rome.' " 

" To Rome ! Me — Ilderim — sheik of ten thousand horse- 
men with spears — me to Rome I" 

He leaped rather than rose to his feet, his arms out- 
stretched, his fingers spread and curved like claws, his eyes 
glittering like a serpent's. 

" God ! — nay, by all the gods except of Rome I — when 



310 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

shall this insolence end ? A freeman am I ; free are my 
people. Must we die slaves ? Or, worse, must I live a dog, 
crawling to a master^s feet? Must I lick his hand lest he 
lash me ? What is mine is not mine ; I am not my own ; 
for breath of body I must be beholden to a Roman. Oh, 
if I were young again ! Oh, could I shake off twenty years 
— or ten — or five !" 

He ground his teeth and shook his hands overhead ; then, 
under the impulse of another idea, he walked away and 
back again to Ben-Hur swiftly, and caught his shoulder with 
a strong grasp. 

" If I were as thou, son of Arrius — as young, as strong, as 
practised in arms ; if I had a motive hissing me to revenge 
— a motive, like thine, great enough to make hate holy — 
Away with disguise on thy part and on mine ! Son of Hur, 
son of Hur, I say — " 

At that name all the currents of Ben-Hur's blood stopped ; 
surprised, bewildered, he gazed into the Arab's eyes, now 
close to his, and fiercely bright. 

" Son of Hur, I say, were I as thou, with half thy wrongs, 
bearing about with me memories like thine, I would not, 
I could not, rest." Never pausing, his words following each 
other torrent -like, the old man swept on. "To all my 
grievances, I would add those of the world, and devote my- 
self to vengeance. From land to land I would go firing all 
mankind. No war for freedom but should find me engaged ; 
no battle against Rome in which I would not bear a part. 
I would turn Parthian, if I could not better. If men failed 
me, still I would not give over the effort — ha, ha, ha ! By 
the splendor of God ! I would herd with wolves, and make 
friends of lions and tigers, in hope of marshalling them 
against the common enemy. I would use every weapon. 
So my victims were Romans, I would rejoice in slaughter. 
Quarter I would not ask ; quarter I would not give. To the 
flames everything Roman ; to the sword every Roman bom. 
Of nights I would pray the gods, the good and the bad alike, 
to lend me their special terrors — tempests, drought, heat, 
cold, and ali the nameless poisons they let loose in air, all 
the thousand things of which men die on sea and on land. 
Oh, I oould not sleep. 1—1—"'^ 



BEX-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. sn 

The sheik stopped for want of breath, panting, wringing 
his hands. And, sooth to say, of all the passionate burst 
Ben-Hur retained but a vague impression wrought by fiery 
eyes, a piercing voice, and a rage too intense for coherent 
expression. 

For the first time in years, the desolate youth heard him- 
self addressed by his proper name. One man at least knew 
him, and acknowledged it without demand of identity ; 
and he an Arab fresh from the desert ! 

How came the man by his knowledge ? The letter ? No. 
It told the cruelties from which his family had suffered ; it 
told the story of his own misfortunes, but it did not say 
he was the very victim whose escape from doom was the 
theme of the heartless narrative. That was the point of ex- 
planation he had notified the sheik would follow the read- 
ing of the letter. He was pleased, and thrilled with hope 
restored, yet kept an air of calmness. 

" Good sheik, tell me how you came by this letter." 

" My people keep the roads between cities," Ilderim an- 
swered, bluntly. " They took it from a courier." 

" Are they known to be thy people ?" 

" No. To the world they are robbers, whom it is mine 
to catch and slay." 

"Again, sheik. You call me son of Hur — my father's 
name. I did not think myself known to a person on earth. 
How came you by the knowledge ?" 

Ilderim hesitated ; but, rallying, he answered, " I know 
you, yet I am not free to tell you more." 

" Some one holds you in restraint?" 

The sheik closed his mouth, and walked away ; but, ob- 
serving Ben-Hur's disappointment, he came back, and said, 
"Let us say no more about the matter now. I will go to 
town ; when I return, I may talk to you fully. Give me the 
letter." 

Ilderim rolled the papyrus carefully, restored it to its en- 
velopes, 'and became once more all energy. 

"What sayest thou?" he asked, while waiting for his 
horse and retinue. " I told what I would do, were I thou, 
and thou hast made no answer." 

"I intended to answer, sheik, and 1 VtSl?'' '^^xi^^^Sssi^ 



312 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

countenance and voice changed with the feeling invoked. 
" All thou hast said, I will do — all at least in the power of 
a man. I devoted myself to vengeance long ago. Every 
hour of the five years passed, I have lived with no other 
thought. I have taken no respite. I have had no pleasures 
of youth. The blandishments of Rome were not for me. 
I wanted her to educate me for revenge. I resorted to her 
most famous masters and professors — not those of rhetoric 
or philosophy : alas ! I had no time for them. The arts 
essential to a fighting-man were my desire. I associated 
with gladiators, and with winners of prizes in the circus; 
and they were my teachers. The drill-masters in the great 
camp accepted me as a scholar, and were proud of my at- 
tainments in their line. O sheik, I am a soldier; but the 
things of which I dream require me to be a captain. With 
that thought, I have taken part in the campaign against the 
Farthians ; when it is over, then, if the Lord spare my life 
and strength — ^then " — he raised his clenched hands, and 
spoke vehemently — " then I will be an enemy Roman- 
taught in all things; then Rome shall account to me in 
Roman lives for her ills. You have my answer, sheik." 

Ilderim put an arm over his shoulder, and kissed him, 
saying, passionately, " If thy God favor thee not, son of 
Hur, it is because he is dead. Take thou this from me — 
sworn to, if so thy preference run: thou shalt have my 
hands, and their fulness — men, horses, camels, and the desert 
for preparation. I swear it ! For the present, enough. Thou 
shalt see or hear from me before night." 

Turning abruptly oflf, the sheik was speedily on the road 
to the city. 



Chapter VI. 

The intercepted letter was conclusive upon a number of 
points of great interest to Ben-Hur. It had all the effect of 
a confession that the writer was a party to the putting-away 
of the family with murderous intent ; that he had sanctioned 
the plan adopted for the purpose ; that he had received a 
portion of the proceeds oi the coiifisc«tio\i^ and was yet in 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 313 

enjoyment of his part ; that he dreaded the unexpected ap- 
pearance of what he was pleased to call the chief malefactor, 
and accepted it as a menace; that he contemplated such 
further action as would secure him in the future, and was 
ready to do whatever his accomplice in Caesarea might ad- 
vise. 

And, now that the letter had reached the hand of him 
really its subject, it was notice of danger to come, as well 
as a confession of guilt. So when Ilderim left the tent, 
Ben-Hur had much to think about, requiring immediate 
action. His enemies were as adroit and powerful as any 
in the East. If they were afraid of him, he had greater 
reason to be afraid of them. He strove earnestly to reflect 
upon the situation, but could not ; his feelings constantly 
overwhelmed him. There was a certain qualified pleasure 
in the assurance that his mother and sister were alive ; and 
it mattered little that the foundation of the assurance was 
a mere inference. That there was one person who could 
tell him where they were seemed to his hope so long de- 
ferred as if discovery were now close at hand. These were 
mere causes of feeling ; underlying them, it must be con- 
fessed he had a superstitious fancy that God was about to 
make ordination in his behalf, in which event faith whis- 
pered him to stand still. 

Occasionally, referring to the words of Ilderim, he won- 
dered whence the Arab derived his information about him ; 
not from Malluch certainly ; nor from Simonides, whose in- 
terests, all adverse, would hold him dumb. Could Messala 
have been the informant? No, no: disclosure might be 
dangerous in that quarter. Conjecture was vain; at the 
same time, often as Ben-Hur was beaten back from the solu- 
tion, he was consoled with the thought that whoever the 
person with the knowledge might be, he was a friend, and, 
being such, would reveal himself in good time. A little 
more waiting — a little more patience. Possibly the errand 
of the sheik was to see the worthy ; possibly the letter 
might precipitate a full disclosure. 

And patient he would have been if only he could have 
believed Tirzah and his mother were waiting for him under 
circumstances permitting hope on their part Bttou^ «& Vl\&\ 



314 BEX-HTR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

if, in other words, conscience had not stung him with accu- 
sations respecting them. 

To escape such accusations, he wandered far through the 
Orchard, pausing now where the date-gatherers were busy, 
yet not too busy to offer him of their fruit and talk with 
him ; then, under the great trees, to watch the nesting birds, 
or hear the bees swarming about the berries bursting with 
honeyed sweetness, and filling all the green and golden 
spaces with the music of their beating wings. 

By the lake, however, he lingered longest He might not 
look upon the water and its sparkling ripples, so like sensu- 
ous life, without thinking of the Egyptian and her marvel- 
lous beauty, and of floating with her here and there through 
the night, made brilliant by her songs and stories ; he might 
not foi^et the charm of her manner, the lightness of her 
laugh, the flattery of her attention, the warmth of her little 
hand under his upon the tiller of the boat From her it 
was for his thought but a short way to Balthasar, and the 
strange things of which he had been witness, unaccountable 
by any law of nature ; and from him, again, to the King of 
the Jews, whom the good man, with such pathos of patience, 
was holding in holy promise, the distance was even nearer. 
And there his mind stayed, finding in the mysteries of that 
personage a satisfaction answering well for the rest he was 
seeking. Because, it may have been, nothing is so easy as 
denial of an idea not agreeable to our wishes, he rejected 
the definition given by Balthasar of the kingdom the king 
was coming to establish. A kingdom of souls, if not intol- 
erable to his Sadducean faith, seemed to him but an abstrac- 
tion drawn from the depths of a devotion too fond and 
dreamy. A kingdom of Judea, on the other hand, was 
more than comprehensible : such had been, and, if only for 
that reason, might be again. And it suited his pride to 
think of a new kingdom broader of domain, richer in power, 
and of a more unapproachable splendor than the old one ; 
if a new king wiser and mightier than Solomon — a new 
under whom, especially, he could find both service and 
\* In that mood he returned to the dowar. 
mid^day meal disposed of, still further to occupy 
JBan-Hor had t^h^ c\\mo\> tq\\&^ <^Mt into the sun- 




BEN.HUfi: A TALE OF TUE CHRIST. 815 

light for inspection. The word but poorly conveys the 
careful study the vehicle underwent No point or part of 
it escaped him. With a pleasure which will be better un- 
derstood hereafter, he saw the pattern was Greek, in his 
judgment preferable to the Roman in many respects; it 
was wider between the wheels, and lower and stronger, and 
the disadvantage of greater weight would bo more than 
compensated by the greater endurance of his Arabs, Speak- 
ing generally, the carriage-makers of Rome built for the 
games almost solely, sacrificing safety to beauty, and dura- 
bility to grace; while the chariots of Achilles and **the 
king of men," designed for war and all its extreme tests, 
still ruled the tastes of those who met and struggled for the 
crowns Isthmian and Olympic. 

Next he brought the horses, and, hitching them to the 
chariot, drove to the field of exercise, where, hour after hour, 
he practised them in movement under the yoke. When he 
came away in the evening, it was with restored spirit, and a 
fixed purpose to defer action in the matter of Messala until 
the race was won or lost. He could not forego the pleasure 
of meeting his adversary under the eyes of the East ; that 
there might be other competitors seemed not to enter his 
thought His confidence in the result was absolute; no 
doubt of his own skill ; and as to the four, they were his 
full partners in the glorious game. 

** Let him look to it, let him look to it ! Ha, Antares — 
Aldebaran I Shall he not, O honest Rigel ? and thou, Atair, 
king among coursers, shall he not beware of us ? Ha, ha I 
good hearts !" 

So in rests he passed from horse to horse, speaking, not 
as a master, but the senior of as many brethren. 

After nightfall, Bon-Hur sat by the door of the tent wait- 
ing for Ilderim, not yet returned from the cjtv. He was 
not impatient, or vexed, or doubtful. The sheik would be 
heard from, at least Indeed, whether it was from satisfac- 
tion with the performance of the four, or the refreshment 
there is in cold water succeeding bodily exercise, or supper 
partaken with royal appetite, or the reaction which, as a 
kindly provision of nature, always follows depression, the 
young man was in good-humor verging upon eUtv^tL* ^^ 



316 BEX-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

felt himself in the hands of Providence no longer his enemy. 
At last there was a sound of horse's feet coming rapidly, 
and 'Malluch rode up. 

" Son of Arrius," he said, cheerily, after salutation, " I 
salute you for Sheik Ilderim, who requests you to mount 
and go to the city. He is waiting for you." 

Ben-Hur asked no questions, but went in where the horses 
were feeding, Aldebaran came to him, as if offering his 
service. He played with him lovingly, but passed on, and 
chose another, not of the four — they were sacred to the 
race. Very shortly the two were on the road, going swiftly 
and in silence. 

Some distance below the Seleucian Bridge, they crossed 
the river by a ferry, and, riding far round on the right bank, 
and recrossing by another ferry, entered the city from the 
west. The detour was long, but Ben-Hur accepted it as a 
precaution for which there was good reason. 

Down to Simonides' landing they rode, and in front of 
the great warehouse, under the bridge, Malluch drew rein. 

" We are come," he said. " Dismount." 

Ben-Hur recognized the place. 

" Where is the sheik ?" he asked. 

" Come with me. I will show you." 

A watchman took the horses, and almost before he re- 
alized it Ben-Hur stood once more at the door of the house 
up on the greater one, listening to the response from within 
— " In God's name, enter." 



Chapter VH. 

Malluch stopped at the door ; Ben-Hur entered alone. 

The room was the same in which he had formerly inter- 
viewed Simonides, and it had been in nowise changed, ex- 
cept now, close by the arm-chair, a polished brazen rod, set 
on a broad wooden pedestal, arose higher than a tali man, 
holding lamps of silver on sliding arms, half-a-dozen or more 
in number, and all burning. The light was clear, bringing 
into view the paneUing on Wi^ ^%!lV&^ 1\vq cornice with its 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 317 

row of gilded balls, and the dome dully tinted with violet 
mica. 

Within, a few steps, Ben-Hur stopped. 

Three persons were present, looking at him — Simonides, 
Uderim, and Esther. 

He glanced hurriedly from one to another, as if to find 
answer to the question half formed in his mind. What busi- 
ness can these have with me ? He became calm, with every 
sense on the alert, for the question was succeeded by an- 
other, Are they friends or enemies ? 

At length, his eyes rested upon Esther. 

The men returned his look kindly ; in her face there was 
something more than kindness — something too spirituel 
for definition, which yet went to his inner consciousness 
without definition. 

Shall it be said, good reader? Back of his gaze there 
was a comparison in which the Egyptian arose and set her- 
self over against the gentle Jewess ; but it lived an instant, 
and, as is the habit of such comparisons, passed away with- 
out a conclusion. 

" Son of Hur— " 

The guest turned to the speaker. 

"Son of Hur," said Simonides, repeating the address 
slowly, and with distinct emphasis, as if to impress all its 
meaning upon him most interested in understanding it, 
" take thou the peace of the Lord God of our fathers — take 
it from me." He paused, then added, "From me and 
mine." 

The speaker sat in his chair ; there were the royal head, 
the bloodless face, the masterful air, under the influence of 
which visitors forgot the broken limbs and distorted body 
of the man. The full black eyes gazed out under the white 
brows steadily, but not sternly. A moment thus, then he 
crossed his hands upon his breast. 

The action, taken with the salutation, could not be mis- 
understood, and was not. 

" Simonides," Ben-Hur answered, much moved, " the holy 
peace you tender is accepted. As son to father, I return it 
to you. Only let there be perfect understanding between us." 

Thus delicately he sought to put aside the submission of 



318 BEN-nUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

the merchant, and, in place of the relation of master and 
servant, substitute one higher and holier. 

Simonides let fall his hands, and, taming to Esther, said, 
" A seat for the master, daughter." 

She hastened, and brought a stool, and stood, with suf- 
fused face, looking from one to the other — from Ben-Hur 
to Simonides, from Simonides to Ben-Hur ; and they wait- 
ed, each declining the superiority direction would imply. 
When at length the pause began to be embarrassing, Ben- 
Hur advanced, and gently took the stool from her, and, go- 
ing to the chair, placed it at the merchant's feet 

" I will sit here," he said. 

His eyes met hers — an instant only ; but both were bet- 
ter of the look. He recognized her gratitude, she his gen- 
erosity and forbearance. 

Simonides bowed his acknowledgment. 

" Esther, child, bring me the paper," he said, with a breath 
of relief. 

She went to a panel in the wall, opened it, took out a 
roll of papyri, and brought and gave it to him. 

" Thou saidst well, son of Hur," Simonides b^an, while 
unrolling the sheets. " Let us understand each other. In 
anticipation of the demand — which I would have made 
hadst thou waived it — I have here a statement covering 
everything necessary to the understanding required. I 
could see but two points involved — the property first, and 
then our relation. The statement is explicit as to both. 
"Will it please thee to read it now ?" 

Ben-Hur received the papers, but glanced at Bderim. 

"Nay," said Simonides, "the sheik shall not deter thee 
from reading. The account — such thou wilt find it — is of 
a nature requiring a witness. In the attesting place at the 
end thou wilt find, when thou comest to it, the name — II- 
derim. Sheik. He knows all. He is thy friend. All he 
has been to me, that will he be to thee also." 

Simonides looked at the Arab, nodding pleasantly, and 
the latter gravely returned the nod, saying, "Thou hast 
said." 

Ben-Hur replied, "I know already the excellence of his 
friendship, and have yet to prove myself worthy of it." 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 319 

Immediately he continued, " Later, O Simonides, I will read 
the papers carefully ; for the present, do thou take them, 
and if thou be not too weary, give me their substance." 

Simonides took back the roll. 

" Here, Esther, stand by me and receive the sheets, lest 
they fall into confusion." 

She took place by his chair, letting her right arm fall 
lightly across his shoulder, so, when he spoke, the account 
seemed to have rendition from both of them jointly. 

" This," said Simonides, drawing out the first leaf, " shows 
the money I had of thy father's, being the amount saved 
from the Romans ; there was no property saved, only money, 
and that the robbers would have secured but for our Jewish 
custom of bills of exchange. The amount saved, being 
sums I drew from Rome, Alexandria, Damascus, Carthage, 
Valentia, and elsewhere within the circle of trade, was one 
hundred and twenty talents Jewish money." 

He gave the sheet to Esther, and took the next one. 

*' With that amount — one hundred and twenty talents — 
I charged myself. Hear now my credits. I use the word, 
as thou wilt see, with reference rather to the proceeds gain- 
ed from the use of the money." 

From separate sheets he then read footings, which, frac- 
tions omitted, were as follows : 

Cr. 

"By ships 60 talents. 

" goods in store 110 " 

" cargoes in transit 76 " 

" camels, horses, etc 20 " 

" warehouses 10 " 

" biUsdue 64 " 

" money on hand and subject to draft. . . 224 " 

Total ~663 " " 

" To these now, to the five hundred and fifty-three talents 
gained, add the original capital I had from thy father, and 
thou hast Six Hundred and Seventy Three Talents ! — 
and all thine — making thee, O son of Hur, the richest sub- 
ject in the world." 

He took the papyri from Esther, and, reserving one, rol- 
led them and offered them to Ben-Hur. The pride percep- 



320 BEN-HUB : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

tible in his maDner was Dot offensive ; it might have been 
from a sense of duty well done; it might have been for 
Ben-Har without reference to himself. 

" And there is nothing," he added, dropping his voice, 
but not his eyes — " there is nothing now thou mayst not do." 

The moment was one of absorbing interest to all present 
Simonides crossed his hands upon his breast again ; Esther 
was anxious ; Sderim nervous. A man is never so on trial 
as in the moment of excessive good-fortune. 

Taking the roll, Ben-Hur arose, struggling with emotion. 

^' All this is to me as a light from heaven, sent to drive 
away a night which has been so long I feared it would 
never end, and so dark I had lost the hope of seeing," he 
said, with a husky voice. '^ I give first thanks to the Lord, 
who has not abandoned me, and my next to thee, O Simoni- 
des. Thy f^thfulness outweighs the cruelty of others, and 
redeems our human nature. ' There is nothing I cannot do :' 
be it so. Shall any man in this my hour of such mighty 
privilege be more generous than I ? Serve me as a witness 
now, Sheik Bderim. Hear thou my words as I shall speak 
them — hear and remember. And thou, Esther, good angel 
of this good man ! hear thou also." 

He stretched his hand with the roll to Simonides. 

" The things these papers take into account — all of them : 
ships, houses, goods, camels, horses, money ; the least as well 
as the greatest — give I back to thee, O Simonides, making 
them all thine, and sealing them to thee and thine forever." 

Esther smiled through her tears; Bderim pulled his 
beard with rapid motion, his eyes glistening like beads of 
jet. Simonides alone was calm. 

" Sealing them to thee and thine forever," Ben-Hur con- 
tinned, with better control of himself, " with one excep- 
tion, and upon one condition." 

The breath of the listeners waited upon his words. 

** The hundred and twenty talents which were my 
father's thou shalt return to me." 

Bderim's countenance brightened. 

^^ And thou shalt join me in search of my mother and 
sister, holding all thine subject to the expense of discovery, 
even as I wiU hold mine." 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 321 

Simonides was much affected. Stretching out his hand, 
he said, " I see thy spirit, son of Hur, and I am grateful to 
the Lord that he hath sent thee to me such as thou art. If 
I served well thy father in life, and his memory afterwards, 
be not afraid of default to thee ; yet must I say the excep- 
tion cannot stand." 

Exhibiting, then, the reserved sheet, he continued, 

" Thou hast not all the account. Take this and read — 
read aloud." 

Ben-Hur took the supplement, and read it. 

*' Statement of the servants of Hur, rendered by Simonides, steward 
of the estate. 

1. Amrah, Egyptian, keeping the palace in Jerusalem. 

2. Simonides, the steward, in Antioch. 

3. Esther, daughter of Simonides." 

Now, in all his thoughts of Simonides, not once had it 
entered Ben-Hur's mind that, by the law, a daughter fol- 
lowed the parent's condition. In all his visions of her, 
the sweet-faced Esther had figured as the rival of the Egyp- 
tian, and an object of possible love. He shrank from the 
revelation so suddenly brought him, and looked at her blush- 
ing ; and, blushing, she dropped her eyes before him. Then 
he said, while the papyrus rolled itself together, 

"A man with six hundred talents is indeed rich, and may 
do what he pleases ; but, rarer than the money, more price- 
less than the property, is the mind which amassed the wealth, 
and the heart it could not corrupt when amassed. O Si- 
monides — and thou, fair Esther — fear not. Sheik Ilderim 
here shall be witness that in the same moment ye were de- 
clared my servants, that moment I declared ye free ; and 
what I declare, that will I put in writing. Is it not enough ? 
Can I do more?" 

" Son of Hur," said Simonides, " verily thou dost make 
servitude lightsome. I was wrong ; there are some things 
thou canst not do ; thou canst not make us free in law. I 
am thy servant forever, because I went to the door with 
thy father one day, and in my ear the awl-marks yet abide." 

" Did my father that ?" 

"Judge him not," cried Simonides, quickly. "He ac- 
cepted me a servant of that class because I pray^ Kuel to 



322 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

do so. I never repented the step. It was the price I paid 
for Rachel, the mother of my child here ; for Rachel, who 
would not be my wife unless I became what she was." 

" Was she a servant forever ?" 

" Even so." 

Ben-Hur walked the floor in pain of impotent wish. 

" I was rich before," he said, stopping suddenly. " I 
was rich with the gifts of the generous Arrius ; now comes 
this greater fortune, and the mind which achieved it Is 
there not a purpose of God in it all ? Counsel me, O Si- 
monides ! Help me to see the right and do it. Help me to 
be worthy my name, and what thou art in law to me, that 
will I be to thee in fact and deed. I will be thy servant 
forever." 

Simonides' face actually glowed. 

" O son of my dead master ! I will do better than help ; 
I will serve thee with all my might of mind and heart. 
Body, I have not ; it perished in thy cause ; but with mind 
and heart I will serve thee. I swear it, by the altar of our 
God, and the gifts upon the altar ! Only make me formally 
what I have assumed to be." 

" Name it," said Ben-Hur, eagerly. 

" As steward the care of the property will be mine." 

"Count thyself steward now; or wilt thou have it in 
writing ?" 

" Thy word simply is enough ; it was so with the father, 
and I will not more from the son. And now, if the under- 
standing be perfect " — Simonides paused. 

" It is with me," said Ben-Hur. 

" And thou, daughter of Rachel, speak !" said Simonides, 
lifting her arm from his shoulder. 

Esther, left thus alone, stood a moment abashed, her 
color coming and going ; then she went to Ben-Hur, and 
said, with a womanliness singularly sweet, " I am not bet- 
ter than my mother was ; and, as she is gone, I pray you, O 
my master, let me care for my father." 

" Ben-Hur took her hand, and led her back to the chair, 
saying, " Thou art a good child. Have thy will." 

Simonides replaced her arm upon his neck, and there was 
silence for a time in the room. 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE GHBIST. $23 



Chapter VIIL 

SiMONiDEs looked up, none the less a master. 

" Esther," he said, quietly, " the night is going fast ; and, 
lest vfe become too weary for that which is before us, let 
the refreshments be brought." 

She rang a bell. A servant answered with wine an? 
bread, which she bore round. 

" The understanding, good my master," continued Simon- 
ides, when all were served, "is not perfect in my sight. 
Henceforth our lives will run on together like rivers which 
have met and joined their waters. I think their flowing 
will be better if every 6loud is blown from the sky above 
them. You left my door the other day with what seemed 
a denial of the claims which I have just allowed in the 
broadest terms; but it was not so, indeed it was not. 
Esther is witness that I recognized you ; and that I did not 
abandon you, let Malluch say." 

" Malluch !" exclaimed Ben-Hur. 

" One bound to a chair, like me, must have many hands 
far-reaching, if he would move the world from which he is 
so cruelly barred. I have many such, and Malluch is one 
of the best of them. And, sometimes " — he cast a grateful 
glance at the sheik — " sometimes I borrow from others good 
of heart, like Ilderim the Generous — good and brave. Let 
him say if I either denied or forgot you." 

Ben-Hur looked at the Arab. 

" This is he, good Ilderim, this is he who told you of 
me?" 

Ilderim^s eyes twinkled as he nodded his answer. 

" How, O my master," said Simonides, " may we with- 
out trial tell what a man is? I knew you; I saw your 
father inyou ; but the kind of man you were I did not 
know. There are people to whom fortune is a curse in 
disguise. Were you of them ? I sent Malluch to find out 
for me, and in the service he was my eyes and ears. Do 



324 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHBIST. 

not blame him. He brought me report of you which was 
all good." 

" I do not," said Ben-Hur, heartily. " There was wis- 
dom in your goodness." 

" The words are very pleasant to me," said the merchant^ 
with feeling, " very pleasant. My fear of misunderstanding 
is laid. Let the rivers run on now as God may give them 
direction." 

After an interval he continued : 

" I am compelled now by truth. The weaver sits weav- 
ing, and, as the shuttle flies, the cloth increases, and the figures 
CTow, and he dreams dreams meanwhile ; so to my hands the 
fortune grew, and I wondered at the increase, and asked ray- 
self about it many times. I could see a care not my own went 
with the enterprises I set going. The simooms which smote 
others on the desert jumped over the things which were 
mine. The storms which heaped the seashore with wrecks 
did but blow my ships the sooner into port Strangest of 
all, I, so dependent upon others, fixed to a place like a dead 
thing, had never a loss by an agent — ^never. The elements 
stooped to serve me, and all my servants, in fact, were 
faithful." 

" It is very strange," said Ben-Hur. 

"So I said, and kept saying. Finally, O my master, 
finally I came to be of your opinion — God was in it — and, 
like you, I asked. What can his purpose be? Intelligence 
is never wasted ; intelligence like God's never stirs except 
with design. I have held the question in heart, lo ! these 
many years, watching for an answer. I felt sure, if God 
were in it, some day, in his own good time, in his own way, 
he would show me his purpose, making it clear as a whited 
house upon a hill. And I believe he has done so." 

Ben-Hur listened with every faculty intent. 

" Many years ago, with my people — thy mother was with 
me, Esther, beautiful as morning over old Olivet — I sat by 
the wayside out north of Jerusalem, near the Tombs of the 
Kings, when three men passed by riding great white camels, 
such as had never been seen in the Holy City. The men 
were strangers, and from far countries. The first one 
stopped and asked me a quealioii, ^''^^^x^ \& he that is 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 325 

born King of the Jews?' As if to allay my wonder, he 
went on to say, * We have seen his star in the east, and 
have come to worship him.' I could not understand, but 
followed them to the Damascus Gate ; and of every person 
they met on the way — of the guard at the Gate, even — they 
asked the question. All who heard it were amazed like me. 
In time I forgot the circumstance, though there was much 
talk of it as a presage of the Messiah. Alas, alas! What 
children we are, even the wisest! When God walks the 
earth, his steps are often centuries apart You have seen 
Balthasar ?" 

" And heard him tell his story," said Ben-Hur. 

" A miracle ! — a very miracle !" cried Simonides. " As 
he told it to me, good my master, I seemed to hear the an- 
swer I had so long waited ; God's purpose burst upon me. 
Poor will the King be when he comes — poor and friendless ; 
without following, without armies, without cities or castles ; 
a kingdom to be set up, and Rome reduced and blotted out. 
See, see, O my master! thou flushed with strength, thou 
trained to arms, thou burdened with riches; behold the 
opportunity the Lord hath sent thee ! Shall not his pur- 
pose be tMne ? Could a man be born to a more perfect 
glory ?" 

Simonides put his whole force in the appeal. 

"But the kingdom, the kingdom!" Ben-Hur answered, 
eagerly. " Balthasar says it is to be of souls." 

The pride of the Jew was strong in Simonides, and there- 
fore the slightly contemptuous curl of the lip with which he 
began his reply : 

" Balthasar has been a witness of wonderful things — of 
miracles, O my master; and when he speaks of them, I bow 
with belief, for they are of sight and sound personal to him. 
But he is a son of Mizraim, and not even a proselyte. 
Hardly may he be supposed to have special knowledge by 
virtue of which we must bow to him in a matter of God's 
dealing with our Israel. The prophets had their light from 
Heaven directly, even as he had his — many to one, and Je- 
hovah the same forever. I must believe the prophets. — 
Bring me the Torah, Esther." 

He proceeded without waiting for her. 



326 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

" May the testimony of a whole people be slighted, my 
master ? Though you travel from Tyre, which is by the sea 
in the north, to the capital of Edom, which is in the desert 
south, you will not find a lisper of the Shema, an alms-giver 
in the Temple, or any one who has ever eaten of the lamb 
of the Passover, to tell you the kingdom the King is com- 
ing to build for us, the children of the covenant, is other 
than of this world, like our father David's. Now where got 
they the faith, ask you ? We will see presently." 

Esther here returned, bringing a number of rolls carefully 
enveloped in dark-brown linen lettered quaintly in gold. 

" Keep them, daughter, to give to me as I call for them," 
the father said, in the tender voice he always used in speak- 
ing to her, and continued his argument : 

"It were long, good my master — too long, indeed — for me 
to repeat to you the names of the holy men who, in the 
providence of God, succeeded the prophets, only a little less 
favored than they — the seers who have written and the preach- 
ers who have taught since the Captivity ; the very wise who 
borrowed their lights from the lamp of Malachi, the last of 
his line, and whose great names Hillel and Shammai never 
tired of repeating in the colleges. Will you ask them of the 
kingdom? Thus, the Lord of the sheep in the Book of 
Enoch — who is he? Who but the King of whom we are 
speaking ? A throne is set up for him ; he smites the earth, 
and the other kings are shaken from their thrones, and the 
scourges of Israel flung into a cavern of fire flaming with 
pillars of fire. So also the singer of the Psalms of Solomon 
— * Behold, O Lord, and raise up to Israel their king, the 
son of David, at the time thou knowest, O God, to rule Is- 
rael, thy children. . . . And he will bring the peoples of the 
heathen under his yoke to serve him. . . . And he shall be 
a righteous king taught of God, ... for he shall rule all 
the earth by the word of his month forever.' And last, 
though not least, hear Ezra, the second Moses, in his visions 
of the night, and ask him who is the lion with human voice 
that says to the eagle — which is Rome — * Thou hast loved 
liars, and overthrown the cities of the industrious, and razed 
their walls, though they did thee no harm. Therefore, be- 
gone, that the earth may be refreshed, and recover itself, 



BEN.HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 327 

and hope in the justice and piety of him who made her/ 
Whereat the eagle was seen no more. Surely, O my master, 
the testimony of these should be enough ! But the way to 
the fountain's head is open. Let us go up to it at once. 
— Some wine, Esther, and then the Torah." 

" Dost thou believe the prophets, master ?" he asked, af- 
ter drinking. " I know thou dost, for of such was the faith 
of all thy kindred. — Give me, Esther, the book which hath in 
it the visions of Isaiah." 

He took one of the rolls which she had unwrapped for 
him, and read, " ' The people that walked in darkness have 
seen a great light : they that dwell in the land of the shad- 
ow of death, upon them hath the light shined. . . . For unto 
us a child is born, unto us a son is given : and the govern- 
ment shall be upon his shoulder. ... Of the increase of his 
government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne 
of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to estab- 
lish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even 
forever.' — Believest thou the prophets, O my master ? — 
Now, Esther, the word of the Lord that came to Micah." 

She gave him the roll he asked. 

'* * But thou,' " he began reading — " * but thou, Bethlehem 
Ephrath, though thou be little among the thousands of Ju- 
dab, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to 
be ruler in Israel.' — This was he, the very child Balthasar 
saw and worshipped in the cave. Believest thou the proph- 
ets, O my master? — Give me, Esther, the words of Jere- 
miah." 

Receiving that roll, he read as before, " * Behold, the days 
come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a right- 
eous branch, and a king shall reign and prosper, and shall 
execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Ju- 
dah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely.' As a king 
he shall reign — as a king, O my master ! Believest thou the 
prophets ? — Now, daughter, the roll of the sayings of that 
son of Judah in whom there was no blemish." 

She gave him the Book of Daniel. 

" Hear, my master," he said : " * I saw in the night vis- 
ions, and behold, one like the Son of man came with the 
clouds of heaven. . . . And there was ^ven him dominion, 



828 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and lan- 
guages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting 
dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that 
which shall not be destroyed.' — Believest thou the prophets, 
O ray master ?" 

" It is enough. I believe," cried Ben-Hur. 

" What then ?" asked Simonides. " If the King come 
poor, will not my master, of his abundance, give him help ?" 

*' Help him ? To the last shekel and the last breath. But 
why speak of his coming poor ?" 

" Give me, Esther, the word of the Lord as it came to 
Zechariah," said Simonides. 

She gave him one of the rolls. 

" Hear how the King will enter Jerusalem." Then he 

read, " * Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion Behold, thy 

King Cometh unto thee with justice and salvation ; lowly, 
and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass.' " 

Ben-Hur looked away. 

" What see you, O my master ?" 

" Rome !" he answered, gloomily — " Rome, and her le- 
gions. I have dwelt with them in their camps. I know 
them." 

" Ah !" said Simonides. " Thou shalt be a master of le- 
gions for the King, with millions to choose from." 

" Millions 1" cried Ben-Hur. 

Simonides sat a moment thinking. 

" The question of power should not trouble you," he next 
said. 

Ben-Hur looked at him inquiringly. 

" You were seeing the lowly King in the act of coming to 
his own," Simonides answered — " seeing him on the right 
hand, as it were, and on the left the brassy legions of 
Caesar, and you were asking, What can he do ?" 

" It was my very thought." 

" O my master !" Simonides continued. " You do not 
know how strong our Israel is. You think of him as a sor- 
rowful old man weeping by the rivers of Babylon. But go 
up to Jerusalem next Passover, and stand on the Xystus or 
in the Street of Barter, and see him as he is. The promise 
of the Lord to father Jacob coming out of Padan-Aram 



BEN-HUR; A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 829 

was a law under which our people have not ceased multi- 
plying — not even in captivity ; they grew under foot of the 
Egyptian ; the clench of the Roman has been but wholesome 
nurture to them ; now they are indeed * a nation, and a com- 
pany of nations.' Nor that only, my master ; in fact, to 
measure the strength of Israel — whiqh is, in fact, measur- 
ing what the King can do— you shall not bide solely by the 
rule of natural increase, but add thereto the other — I mean 
the spread of the faith, which will carry you to the far and 
near of the whole known earth. Further, the habit is, I 
know, to think and speak of Jerusalem as Israel, which may 
be likened to our finding an embroidered shred, and holding 
it up as a magisterial robe of Caesar's. Jerusalem is but a 
stone of the Temple, or the heart in the body. Turn from 
beholding the legions, strong though they be, and count the 
hosts of the faithful waiting the old alarm, * To your tents, 
O Israel !'— count the many in Persia, children of those who 
chose not to return with the returning ; count the brethren 
who swarm the marts of Egypt and Farther Africa ; count 
the Hebrew colonists eking profit in the West— in Lodinum 
and the trade-courts of Spain ; count the pure of blood and 
the proselytes in Greece and in the isles of the sea, and over 
in Pontus, and here in Antioch, and, for that matter, those 
of that city lying accursed in the shadow of the unclean 
walls of Rome herself ; count the worshippers of the Lord 
dwelling in tents along the deserts next us, as well as in the 
deserts beyond the Nile: and in the regions across the 
Caspian, and up in the old lands of Gog and Magog even, 
separate those who annually send gifts to the Holy Temple 
in acknowledgment of God — separate them, that they may 
be counted also. And when you have done counting, lo I 
my master, a census of the sword hands that await you ; lo I 
a kingdom ready fashioned for him who is to do * judgment 
and justice in the whole earth' — in Rome not less than in 
Zion. Have then the answer, What Israel can do, that can 
the King." 

The picture was fervently given. 

Upon Ilderim it operated like the blowing of a trumpet. 
^^ Oh that I had back my youth I" he cried, starting to his 
feet. 



330 BEN-nUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

Ben-Hur sat stilL The speech, he saw, was an invitation 
to devote his life and fortune to the mysterious Being who 
was palpably as much the centre of a great hope with Si- 
monides as with the devout Egyptian. The idea, as we have 
seen, was not a new one, but had come to him repeatedly ; 
once while listening to Malluch in the Grove of Daphne ; 
afterwards more distinctly while Balthasar was giving his 
conception of what the kingdom was to be ; still later, in 
the walk through the old Orchard, it had risen almost, if not 
quite, into a resolve. At such times it had come and gone 
only an idea, attended with feelings more or less acute. Not 
so now. A master had it in charge, a master was working 
it up ; already he had exalted it into a cause brilliant with 
possibilities and infinitely holy. The effect was as if a door 
theretofore unseen had suddenly opened flooding Ben-Hur 
with light, and admitting him to a service which had been 
his one perfect dream — a service reaching far into the fut- 
ure, and rich with the rewards of duty done, and prizes to 
sweeten and soothe lus ambition. One touch more was 
needed. 

*' Let us concede all you say, O Simonides,^' said Ben- 
Hur — " that the King will come, and his kingdom be as Sol- 
omon^s ; say also I am ready to give myself and all I have 
to him and his cause ; yet more, say that I should do as was 
God's purpose in the ordering of my life and in your 
quick amassment of astonishing fortune ; then what ? Shall 
we proceed like blind men building ? Shall we wait till the 
King comes f Or until he sends for me ? You have age and 
experience on your side. Answer.'' 

Simonides answered at once. 

" We have no choice ; none. This letter " — he produced 
Messala's despatch as he spoke — '^ this letter is the signal for 
action. The alliance proposed between Messala and Gratus 
we are not strong enough to resist ; we have not the influ- 
ence at Rome nor the force here. They will kill you if we 
wait. How merciful they are, look at me and jn^ge.'' 

He shuddered at the terrible recollection. 

^ O good my master," he continued, recovering himself ; 
" how strong are yon — in purpose, I mean P 

Ben-HuT did not understand him. 



BEN-HUB: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 331 

" I remember how pleasant the world was to me in my 
youth," Simonides proceeded. 

"Yet," said Ben-Hur, " you were capable of a great sacri- 
fice." 

" Yes ; for love." 

" Has not life other motives as strong ?" 

Simonides shook his head. 

"There is ambition." 

" Ambition is forbidden a son of Israel." 

"What, then, of revenge?" 

The spark dropped upon the inflammable passion ; the 
man's eyes gleamed ; his hands shook ; he answered, quick- 
ly, " Revenge is a Jew's of right ; it is the law." 

"A camel, even a dog, will remember a wrong," cried 
Ilderim. 

Directly Simonides picked up the broken thread of his 
thought. 

" There is a work, a work for the King, which should be 
done in advance of his coming. We may not doubt that 
Israel is to be his right hand ; but, alas I it is a hand of 
peace, without cunning in war. Of the millions, there is not 
one trained band, not a captain. The mercenaries of the 
Herods I do not count, for they are kept to crush us. The 
condition is as the Roman would have it ; his policy has 
fruited Well for his tyranny ; but the time of change is at 
hand, when the shepherd shall put on armor, and take to 
spear and sword, and the feeding flocks be turned to fight- 
ing lions. Some one, my son, must have place next the King 
at his right hand. Who shall it be if not he who does 
this work well ?" 

Ben-Hur's face flushed at the prospect, though he said, 
" I see ; but speak plainly. A deed to be done is one thing ; 
how to do it is another." 

Simonides sipped the wine Esther brought him, and re- 
plied, 

"The sheik, and thou, my master, shall be principals, 
each with a part. I will remain here, carrying on as now, 
and watchful that the spring go not dry. Thou shalt be- 
take thee to Jenisalem, and thence to the wilderness, and 
begin numbering the fighting -men of Israel, and telling 



332 BEXHUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

them into tens and hundreds, and choosing captains and 
training them, and in secret places hoarding arms, for which 
I shall keep thee supplied. Commencing over in Perea, 
thoa shalt go then to Galilee, whence it is but a step to 
Jerusalem. In Perea, the desert will be at thy back, and 
Ederim in reach of thy hand. He will keep the roads, so 
that nothing shall pass without thy knowledge. He will 
help thee in many ways. Until the ripening time no one 
shall know what is here contracted. Mine is but a ser- 
vant's part I have spoken to Dderim. What sayest thou f ' 

Ben-Hur looked at the sheik. 

^ It is as he says, son of Hur,'^ the Arab responded. ^' I 
have given my word, and he is content with it ; but thou 
shah have my oath, binding me, and the ready hands of my 
tribe* and whatever serviceable thing I have." 

The three — Simonides, Dderim, Esther — gazed at Ben- 
Hur fixedly. 

** Every man,^ he answered, at first sadly, ^ has a cup of 

Ceasure poured for him» and soon or late it comes to his 
ind. and he tastes and drinks— every man but me. I see, 
Simonides, and thou« O generous sheik ! — ^I see whitktf the 
proposal tends. If I accept^ and enter upon the coarse, 
£ur«weU peace* and the hopes which cluster around it. The 
doors I m^t cDter and the gates of quiet life will shut be- 
hiiid me* never to open «gain, for Rome keeps them all; 
and her oatlawrv will follow me, and her hunters ; and in 
the tombs near cities and the dismal caverns of remotest 
hilk* I most eat mr cc^ and take mr re^"* 

The speech w;fes^ biv^ken by a sob^ AH turned to Esth^ , 
who hid her £aee upon her ^tther *s shoulder. 

^ I did not think <si too* Esther,** :siid :SmoQiiies«. gently, 
taf he wafi huHDself deeply moved. 

^ It ts w«n enoagh. Simonidies*** said Be»>Hizr. ^ A man 
liiBiis a kaid doom bettn; knowing thef>^ k p^tr for 
ut me :ec> OIL 



*** I w«s abo«l u> say^" hi& co«tin«d. ^ I kav^ i!«d e&oke» 
Vit Idbfe Ike put y^« aissu^m me: aitd ;a^ nsBsissiv Wf^ ts 
t» mc«l aia %wiliie daik 1 wtE Id t&e vvHrk at ^»M«^ 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 333 

" I rest upon your word," said Ben-Hur. 

** And I," Ederim answered. 

Thus simply was effected the treaty which was to alter 
Ben-Hur's life. And almost immediately the latter added, 

" It is done, then." 

"May the God of Abraham help us!" Simonides ex- 
claimed. 

" One word now, my friends," Ben-Hur said, more cheer- 
fully. " By your leave, I will be my own until after the 
games. It is not probable Messala will set peril on foot for 
me until he has given the procurator time to answer him ; 
and that cannot be in less than seven days from the de- 
spatch of his letter. The meeting him in the Circus is a 
pleasure I would buy at whatever risk." 

Ilderim, well pleased, assented readily, and Simonides, in- 
tent on business, added, " It is well ; for look you, my mas- 
ter, the delay will give me time to do you a good part. I 
understood you to speak of an inheritance derived from 
Arrius. Is it in property ?" 

" A villa near Misenum, and houses in Rome." 

"I suggest, then, the sale of the property, and safe deposit 
of the proceeds. Give me an account of it, and I will have 
authorities drawn, and despatch an agent on the mission 
forthwith. We will forestall the imperial robbers at least 
this once." 

" You shall have the account to-morrow." 

" Then, if there be nothing more, the work of the night 
is done," said Simonides. 

Ilderim combed his beard complacently, saying, "And 
well done." 

" The bread and wine again, Esther. Sheik Ilderim will 
make us happy by staying with us till to-morrow, or at his 
pleasure ; and thou, my master — " 

" Let the horses be brought," said Ben-Hur. " I will re- 
turn to the Orchard. The enemy will not discover me if I 
go now, and " — he glanced at Ilderim — " the four will be 
glad to see me." 

As the day dawned, he and Malluch dismounted at the 
door of the tent. 



3S4 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 



Chapter IX. 

Next night, about the fourth hour, Ben-Hur stood on the 
terrace of the great warehouse with Esther. Below them, 
on the landing, there was much running about, and shifting 
of packages and boxes, and shouting of men, whose figures, 
stooping, heaving, hauling, looked, in the light of the crack- 
ling torches kindled in tibeir aid, like the laboring genii of 
the fantastic Eastern tales. A galley was being laden for 
instant departure. Simonides had not yet come from his 
office, in which, at the last moment, he would deli\rer to the 
captain of the vessel instructions to proceed without stop 
to Ostia, the seaport of Rome, and, after landing a passen- 
ger there, continue more leisurely to Valentia, on the coast 
of Spain. 

The passenger is the agent going to dispose of the estate 
derived from Arrius the duumvir. When the lines of the 
vessel are cast off, and she is put about, and her voyage be- 
gun, Ben-Hur will be committed irrevocably to the work un- 
dertaken the night before. If he is disposed to repent the 
agreement with Ilderim, a little time is allowed him to give 
notice and break it off. He is master, and has only to say 
the word. 

Such may have been the thought at the moment in his 
mind. He was standing with folded arms, looking upon 
the scene in the manner of a man debating with himself. 
Young, handsome, rich, but recently from the patrician cir- 
cles of Roman society, it is easy to think of the world be- 
setting him with appeals not to give more to onerous duty 
or ambition attended with outlawry and danger. We can 
even imagine the arguments with which he was pressed ; 
the hopelessness of contention with Caesar ; the uncertainty 
veiling everything connected with the King and his coming ; 
the ease, honors, state, purchasable like goods in market; 
and, strongest of all, the sense newly acquired of home, with 
friends to make it delighlixiL Only those who have been 



BEN-HUR^ A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 335 

wanderers long desolate can know the power there was in 
the latter i^peal. 

Let us add now, the world— always canning enough of 
itself ; always whispering to the weak, Stay, take thine ease ; 
always presenting the sunny side of life — the world was in 
this instance helped by Ben-Hur's companion. 

" Were you ever at Rome ?" he asked. 

" No," Esther replied. 

" Would you like to go ?" 

" I think not." 

"Why?" 

" I am afraid of Rome," she answered, with a perceptible 
tremor of the voice. 

He looked at her then — or rather down upon her, for at 
his side she appeared little more than a child. In the dim 
light he could not see her face distinctly ; even the form 
was shadowy. But again he was reminded of Tirzah, and a 
sudden tenderness fell upon him — just so the lost sister 
stood with him on the house-top the calamitous morning of 
the accident to Gratus. Poor Tirzah ! Where was she now ? 
Esther had the benefit of the feeling evoked. If not his 
sister, he could never look upon her as his servant ; and 
that she was his servant in fact would make him always 
the more considerate and gentle towards her. 

" I cannot think of Rome," she continued, recovering her 
voice, and speaking in her quiet womanly way — " I cannot 
think of Rome as a city of palaces and temples, and crowded 
with people ; she is to me a monster which has possession 
of one of the beautiful lands, and lies there luring men to 
ruin and death — a monster which it is not possible to resist 
— SL ravenous beast gorging with blood. Why — " 

She faltered, looked down, stopped. 

" Go on," said Ben-Hur, reassuringly. 

She drew closer to him, looked up again, and said, 
" Why must you make her your enemy ? Why not rather 
make peace with her, and be at rest ? You have had many 
ills, and borne them ; you have survived the snares laid for * 
you by foes. Sorrow has consumed your youth ; is it well 
to give it the remainder of your days ?" 

The girlish face under his eyes seemed to come nearer and 



336 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

get whiter as the pleading went on ; he stooped towards it, 
and asked, softly, ** What would you have me do, Esther ?" 

She hesitated a moment, then asked, in return, ** Is the 
property near Home a residence ?" 

" Yes." 

"And pretty?" 

" It is beautiful — a palace in the midst of gardens and 
shell-strewn walks ; fountains without and within ; statuary 
in the shady nooks; hills around covered with vines, and 
so high that Neapolis and Vesuvius are in sight, and the 
sea an expanse of purpling blue dotted with restless sails. 
Caesar has a country-seat near-by, but in Home they say 
the old Arrian villa is the prettiest." 

" And the life there, is it quiet ?" 

" There was never a summer day, never a moonlit night, 
more quiet, save when visitors come. Now that the old 
owner is gone, and I am here, there is nothing to break its 
silence — nothing, unless it be the whispering of servants, or 
the whistling of happy birds, or the noise of fountains at 
play ; it is changeless, except as day by day old flowers fade 
and fall, and new ones bud and bloom, and the sunlight 
gives place to the shadow of a passing cloud. The life, 
Esther, was all too quiet for me. It made me restless by 
keeping always present a feeling that I, who have so much 
to do, was dropping into idle habits, and tying myself with 
silken chains, and after a while — and not a long while either 
— would end with nothing done." 

She looked off over the river. 

" Why did you ask ?" he said. 

" Good my master — " 

" No, no, Esther — not that. Call me friend — ^brother, if 
you will ; I am not your master, and will not be. Call me 
brother." 

He could not see the flush of pleasure which reddened 
her face, and the glow of the eyes that went out lost in the 
void above the river. 

" I cannot understand," she said, " the nature which pre- 
fers the life you are going to— a life of — " 

" Of violence, and it may be of blood," he said, complet- 
ion the sentence. 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 337 

" Yes," she added, " the nature which could prefer that 
life to such as might be in the beautiful villa." 

" Esther, you mistake. There is no preference. Alas ! 
the Roman is not so kind. I am going of necessity. To 
stay here is to die ; and if I go there, the end will be the 
same — a poisoned cup, a bravo's blow, or a judge's sentence 
obtained by perjury. Messala and the procurator Gratus are 
rich with plunder of my fatherV estate, and it is more im- 
portant to them to keep their gains now than was their 
getting in the first instance. A peaceable settlement is out 
of reach, because of the confession it would imply. And 
then — then — Ah, Esther, if I could buy them, I do not 
know that I would. I do not believe peace possible to me ; 
no, not even in the sleepy shade and sweet air of the marble 
porches of the old villa — no matter who might be there to 
help me bear the burden of the days, nor by what patience 
of love she made the effort. Peace is not possible to me 
while my people are lost, for I must be watchful to find 
them. If I find them, and they have suffered wrong, shall 
not the guilty suffer for it ? If they are dead by violence, 
shall the murderers escape? Oh, I could not sleep for 
dreams 1 Nor could the holiest love, by any stratagem, lull 
me to a rest which conscience would not strangle." 

" Is it so bad then ?" she asked, her voice tremulous with 
feeling. " Can nothing, nothing, be done ?" 

Ben-Hur took her hand. 

" Do you care so much for me ?" 

" Yes," she answered, simply. 

The hand was warm, and in the palm of his it was lost. 
He felt it tremble. Then the Egyptian came, so the oppo- 
site of this little one ; so tall, so audacious, with a flattery 
so cunning, a wit so ready, a beauty so wonderful, a manner 
so bewitching. He carried the hand to his lips, and gave it 
back. 

" You shall be another Tirzah to me, Esther." 

"WhoisTirzah?" 

^^ The little sister the Roman stole from me, and whom I 
must find before I can rest or be happy." 

Just then a gleam of liffht flashed athwart the terrace and 
fell upon the two ; and, looking round, they saw o^ ^\.^«si^» 
22 



338 BEN-HUB : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

roll Simonides in his chair out of the door. They went to 
the merchant, and in the after-talk he was principal. 

Immediately the lines of the galley were cast off, and she 
swung round, and, midst the flashing of torches and the 
shooting of joyous sailors, hurried off to the sea — ^leaving 
Ben-Hur committed to the cause of the Kiso who was to 

COME. 



k' 



Chapter X. 

The day before the games, in the afternoon, all Uderim^s 
racing property was taken to the city, and put in quarters 
adjoining the Circus. Along with it the good man carried 
a great deal of property not of that class ; so with servants, 
retainers mounted and armed, horses in leading, cattle driven, 
camels laden with baggage, his outgoing from the Orchard 
was not nnlike a tnhsS. migration. The people along the 
road failed not to laugh at his motley procession ; on the 
other side, it was observed that, with all his irascibility, he 
was not in the least offended by their rudeness. If he was 
under surveillance, as he had reason to believe, the informer 
would describe the semi-barbarous show with which he came 
up to the races. The Romans would laugh ; the city would 
be amused ; but what cared he ? Next morning the pag- 
eant would be far on the road to the desert, and going with 
it would be every movable thing of value belonging to the 
Orchard — everything save such as were essential to the suc- 
cess of his four. He was, in fact, started home ; his tents 
were all folded ; the dowar was no more ; in twelve hours 
all would be out of reach, pursue who might. A man is 
never safer than when he is under the laugh; and the 
shrewd old Arab knew it 

Neither he nor Ben-Hur overestimated the influence of 
Messala ; it was their opinion, however, that he would not 
b^in active measures against them until after the meeting 
in the Circus ; if defeated there, especially if defeated by 
Ben-Hor, they might instantly look for the worst he could 
do; benught not even wait for advices from Gratos. With 
iMs mw, tbej shaped their coTa^^^sidwere prepared to 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 339 

betake themselves out of hann's way. They rode together 
now in good spirits, calmly confident of success on the 
morrow. 

On the way, they came upon Malluch in waiting for them. 
The faithful fellow gave no sign by which it was possible 
to infer any knowledge on his part of the relationship so 
recently admitted between Ben-Hur and Simonides, or of 
the treaty between them and Ilderim. He exchanged salu- 
tations as usual, and produced a paper, saying to the sheik, 
** I have here the notice of the editor of the games, just is- 
sued, in which you will find your horses published for the 
race. You will find in it also the order of exercises. With- 
out waiting, good sheik, I congratulate vou upon your vic- 
tory." 

He gave the paper over, and, leaving the worthy to mas- 
ter it, turned to Ben-Hur. 

" To you also, son of Arrius, my congratulations. There 
is nothing now to prevent your meeting Messala. Every con- 
dition preliminary to the race is complied with. I have the 
assurance from the editor himself." 

" I thank you, Malluch," said Ben-Hur. 

Malluch proceeded : 

" Your color is white, and Messala's mixed scarlet and 
gold. The good effects of the choice are visible already. 
Boys are now hawking white ribbons along the streets ; to- 
morrow every Arab and Jew in the city will wear them. In 
the Circus you will see the white fairly divide the galleries 
with the red." 

"The galleries — but not the tribupal over the Porta 
PompsB." 

" No ; the scarlet and gold will rule there. But if we 
win " — Malluch chuckled with the pleasure of the thought 
— " if we win, how the dignitaries will tremble 1 They will 
bet, of course, according to their scorn of everything not 
Roman — ^two, three, five to one on Messala, because he is 
Roman." Dropping his voice yet lower, he added, " It ill 
becomes a Jew of good standing in the Temple to put his 
money at such a hazard ; yet, in confidence, I will have a 
friend next behind the consults seat to accept offers of three 
to one, or five, or ten — the madness maj ^o \.o «v\sJ!a.\i€\^go!^»» 



340 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 



I have pat to his order six thousand shekels for the pur- 
pose." 

"Nay, Malluch," said Ben-Hur, "a Roman will wager 
only m his Roman coin. Suppose you find your friend to- 
night, and place to his order sestertii in such amount as 
you choose. And look you, Malluch — let him be instructed 
to seek wagers with Messala and his supporters ; Ilderim's 
four against Messala's." 

Malluch reflected a moment. 

" The effect will be to centre interest upon your contest" 

" The very thing I seek, Malluch." 

" I see, I see." 

" Ay, Malluch ; would you serve me perfectly, help me 
to fix the public eye upon our race — Messala's and mine." 

Malluch spoke quickly — " It can be done." 

" Then let it be done," said Ben-Hur. 

" Enormous wagers offered will answer ; if the offers are 
accepted, all the better." 

Malluch turned his eyes watchfully upon Ben-Hur. 

" Shall I not have back the equivalent of his robbery ?" 
said Ben-Hur, partly to himself. "Another opportunity 
may not come. And if I could break him in fortune as 
well as in pride ! Our father Jacob could take no offence." 

A look of determined will knit his handsome face, giv- 
ing emphasis to his further speech. 

" Yes, it shall be. Hark, Malluch 1 Stop not in thy of- 
fer of sestertiL Advance them to talents, if any there be 
who dare so high. Five, ten, twenty talents ; ay, fifty, so 
the wager be with Messala himself." 

" It is a mighty sum," said Malluch. " I must have se- 
curity." 

" So thou shalt Go to Simonides, and tell him I wish 
the matter arranged. Tell him my heart is set on the ruin 
of my enemy, and that the opportunity hath such excellent 
promise that I choose such hazards. On our side be the 
God of our fathers ! Go, good Malluch. Let this not slip." 

And Malluch, greatly delighted, gave him parting saluta- 
tion, and started to ride away, but returned presently. 

" Your pardon," he said to Ben-Hur. " There was an- 
other matter. I could not get near Messala's chariot myself, 



BEN.HUR: A TALE OF THE CUBIST. 341 

but I had another measure it ; and, from his report, its hub 
stands quite a palm higher from the ground than yours." 

" A palm 1 So much ?" cried Ben-Hur, joyfully. 

Then he leaned over to Malluch. 

*^ As thou art a son of Judah, Malluch, and faithful to 
thy kin, get thee a seat in the gallery over the Gate of Tri- 
umph, down close to the balcony in front of the pillars, and 
watch well when we make the turns there ; watch well, for 
if I have favor at all, I will — Nay, Malluch, let it go un- 
said 1 Only get thee there, and watch well." 

At that moment a cry burst from Ederim. 

** Ha! By the splendor of God ! what is this ?" 

He drew near Ben-Hur with a finger pointing on the 
face of the notice. 

" Read," said Ben-Hur. 

" No ; better thou." 

Ben-Hur took the paper, which, signed by the prefect of 
the province as editor, performed the oflSce of a modern 
programme, giving particularly the several divertisements 
provided for the occasion. It infonned the public that 
there would be first a procession of extraordinary splendor ; 
that the procession would be succeeded by the customary 
honors to the god Consus, whereupon the games would be- 
gin ; running, leaping, wrestling, boxing, each in the order 
stated. The names of the competitors were given, with 
their several nationalities and schools of training, the trials 
in which they had been engaged, the prizes won, and the 
prizes now offered; under the latter head the sums of 
money were stated in illuminated letters, telling of the de- 
parture of the day when the simple chaplet of pine or laurel 
was fully enough for the victor, hungering for glory as 
something better than riches, and content with it. 

Over these parts of the programme Ben-Hur sped with 
rapid eyes. At last he came to the announcement of the 
race. He read it slowly. Attending lovers of the heroic 
sports were assured they would certainly be ^tified by 
an Orestean struggle unparalleled in Antioch. The city of- 
fered the spectacle in honor of the consul. One hundred 
thousand sestertii and a crown of laurel were the prizes. 
Then followed the particulars. The entries were six in all 



342 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

— fours only permitted ; and, to further interest in the per- 
formance, the competitors would be turned into the course 
together. Each four then received description. 

*' I. A four of Lysippus the Corinthian — two grays, a bay, and a 
black ; entered at Alexandria last year, and again at Corinth, where 
they were winners. Lysippus, driver. Color, yellow. 

" n. A four of Messala of Rome — two white, two black ; victors of 
the Circensian as exhibited in the Circus Maximus last year. Messala, 
driver. Colors, scarlet and gold. 

" in, A four of Cleanthes the Athenian — three gray, one bay ; 
winners at the Isthmian last year. Cleanthes, driver. Color, green. 

" IV. A four of DicaBus the Byzantine — ^two black, one gray, one 
bay ; winners this year at Byzantium. Dicseus, driver. Color, black. 

** V. A four of Admetus the Sidonian — ^all grays. Thrice entered 
at Csesarea, and thrice victors. Admetus, driver. Color, blue. 

** VI. A four of Ilderim, sheik of the Desert. All bays ; first race. 
Ben-Hur, a Jew, driver. Color, white." 

Ben-Hur, a Jew, driver ! 

Why that name instead of Arrius? 

Ben-Hur raised his eyes to Ilderim. He had found the 
cause of the Arab's outcry. Both rushed to the same con- 
clusion. 

The hand was the hand of Messala ! 



Chapter XL 

Evening was hardly come upon Antioch, when the Om- 
phalus, nearly in the centre of the city, became a troubled 
fountain from which in every direction, but chiefly down to 
the Njrmphseum and east and west along the Colonnade of 
Herod, flowed currents of people, for the time given up to 
Bacchus and Apollo. 

For such indulgence anything more fitting cannot be im- 
agined than the great roofed streets, which were literally 
miles on miles of porticos wrought of marble, polished to 
the last degree of finish, and all gifts to the voluptuous 
city by princes careless of expenditure where, as in this 
instance, they thought they were eternizing themselves. 
Darkness was not permitted anywhere; and the singing, 
the laughter, the shouting, were incessant, and in compound 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 343 

like the roar of waters dashing through hollow grots, con- 
fused by a multitude of echoes. 

The many nationalities represented, though they might 
have amazed a stranger, were not peculiar to Antioch. Of 
the various missions of the great empire, one seems to have 
been the fusion of men and the introduction of strangers to 
each other ; accordingly, whole peoples rose up and went at 
pleasure, taking with them their costumes, customs, speech, 
and gods ; and where they chose, they stopped, engaged 
in business, built houses, erected altars, and were what they 
had been at home. 

There was a peculiarity, however, which could not have 
failed the notice of a looker-on this night in Antioch. 
Nearly everybody wore the colors of one or other of the 
charioteers announced for the morrow's race. Sometimes 
it was in form of a scarf, sometimes a badge ; often a ribbon 
or a feather. Whatever the form, it signified merely th«? 
wearer's partiality ; thus, green published a friend of Clean> 
thes the Athenian, and black an adherent of the Byzantine. 
This was according to a custom, old probably as the day of 
the race of Orestes — ^a custom, by the way, worthy of study 
as a marvel of history, illustrative of the absurd yet appall- 
ing extremities to which men frequently sufEer their follies 
to drag them. 

The observer abroad on this occasion, once attracted to the 
wearing of colors, would have very shortly decided that 
there were three in predominance — ^green, white, and the 
mixed scarlet and gold. 

But let us from the streets to the palace on the island. 

The five great chandeliers in the saloon are freshly light- 
ed. The assemblage is much the same as that already no- 
ticed in connection with the place. The divan has its corps 
of sleepers and burden of garments, and the tables yet 
resound with the rattle and clash of dice. Yet the greater 
part of the company are not doing anything. They walk 
about, or yawn tremendously, or pause as they pass each 
other to exchange idle nothings. Will the weather be fair 
to-morrow ? Are the preparations for the games complete ? 
Do the laws of the Circus in Antioch differ from the laws 
of the Circus in Rome ? Tinith is, the young fello^^ ^^ 



344 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

snfEering from ennui. Their heavy work is done ; that is, 
we would find their tablets, could we look at them, cov- 
ered with memoranda of wagers — wagers on every contest ; 
on the running, the wrestling, the boxing; on everjrthing 
but the chariot-race. 

And why not on that ? 

Grood reader, they cannot find anybody who will hazard 
so much as a denarius with them against Messala. , 

There are no colors in the saloon but his. 

No one thinks of his defeat. 

Why, they say, is he not perfect in his training? Did 
he not graduate from an imperial lanista? Were not his 
horses winners at the Circensian in the Circus Maxim us? 
And then — ah, yes ! he is a Roman ! 

In a comer, at ease on the divan, Messala himself may 
be seen. Around him, sitting or standing, are his court- 
ierly admirers, plying him with questions. There is, of 
course, but one topic. 

Enter Drusus and Cecilius. 

" Ah !" cries the young prince, throwing himself on the 
divan at Messala's feet, " Ah, by Bacchus, I am tired !" 

" Whither away V asks Messala. 

" Up the street ; up to the Omphalus, and beyond — who 
shall say how far ? Rivers of people ; never so many in 
the city before. They say we will see the whole world at 
the Circus to-morrow." 

Messala laughed scornfully. 

** The idiots ! Perpol ! They never beheld a Circensian 
with Caesar for editor. But, my Drusus, what found you ?" 

" Nothing." 

" O — ah ! You forget," said Cecilius. 

** What ?" asked Drusus. 

" The procession of whites." 

" MirahiUr cried Drusus, half rising. " We met a fac- 
tion of whites, and they had a banner. But — ha, ha, ha !" 

He fell back indolently. 

" Cruel Drusus — not to go on," said Messala. 

" Scum of the desert were they, my Messala, and garbage^ 
eaters from the Jacob's Temple in Jerusalem. What had I 
to do with them T 



BEI'f.HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 345 

" Nay," said Cecilius, " Drusus is afraid of a laugh, but I 
am Dot, my Messala." 

" Speak thou, then." 

" Well, we stopped the faction, and — ^" 

** Offered them a wager," said Drusus, relenting, and tak- 
ing the word from the shadow's mouth. "And — ^ha, ha, 
ha ! — one fellow with not enough skin on his face to make 
a worm for a carp stepped forth, and — ha, ha, ha ! — said 
yes. I drew my tablets. ' Who is your man V I asked. 
* Ben-Hur, the Jew,' said he. Then I: * What shall it be ? 
How much V He answered, ' A — a — ' Excuse me, Messala. 
By Jove's thunder, I cannot go on for laughter 1 Ha, ha, ha !" 

The listeners leaned forward. 

Messala looked to Cecilius. 

" A shekel," said the latter. 

"A shekel! A shekel!" 

A burst of scornful laughter ran fast upon the repetition. 

" And what did Drusus ?" asked Messala. 

An outciy over about the door just then occasioned a 
rush to that quarter ; and, as the noise there continued, and 
grew louder, even Cecilius betook himself off, pausing only 
to say, "The noble Drusus, my Messala, put up his tablets 
and — lost the shekel." 

" A white ! A white !" 

" Let him come !" 

" This way, this way !" 

These and like exclamations filled the saloon, to the stop- 
page of other speech. The dice-players quit their games ; 
the sleepers awoke, rubbed their eyes, drew their tablets, and 
hurried to the common centre. 

" I offer you—" 

" And I—" 

ti T yy 

The person so warmly received was the respectable Jew, 
Ben-Hur's fellow-voyager from Cyprus. He entered grave, 
quiet, observant. His robe was spotlessly white ; so was the 
cloth of his turban. Bowing and smiling at the welcome, he 
moved slowly towards the central table. Arrived there, he 
drew his robe about him in a stately manner, took seat, 
and waved his hand. The gleam of a jewel on a finger 
helped him not a little to the silence which ensued. 



346 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

" Romans — ^most noble Romans — I salute you !" he said. 

** Easy, by Jupiter ! Who is he ?" asked Drusus. 

" A dog of Israel — Sanballat by name — purveyor for the 
anny; residence, Rome; vastly rich; grown so as a con- 
tractor of furnishments which he never furnishes. He 
spins mischiefs, nevertheless, finer than spiders spin their 
webs. Come — by the girdle of Venus ! let us catch him !" 

Messala arose as he spoke, and, with Drusus, joined the 
mass crowded about the purveyor. 

" It came to me on the street," said that person, produc- 
ing his tablets, and opening them on the table with an im- 
pressive air of business, " that there was great discomfort 
in the palace because offers on Messala were going without 
takers. The gods, you know, must have sacrifices ; and here 
am I. You see my color; let us to the matter. Odds 
first, amounts next. What will you give me ?" 

The audacity seemed to stun his hearers. 

"Haste!" he said. "I have an engagement with the 
consul." 

The spur was effective. 

" Two to one," cried half a dozen in a voice. 

" What !" exclaimed the purveyor, astonished. " Only 
two to one, and yours a Roman !" 

" Take three, then." 

" Three say you — only three — and mine but a dog of a 
Jew ! Give me four." 

" Four it is," said a boy, stung by the taunt. 

" Five — give me five," cried the purveyor, instantly. 

A profound stillness fell upon the assemblage. 

" The consul — your master and mine — is waiting for me." 

The inaction became awkward to the many. 

" Give me five — for the honor of Rome, five." 

" Five let it be," said one in answer. 

There was a sharp cheer — a commotion — and Messala 
himself appeared. 

" Five let it be," he said. 

And Sanballat smiled, and made ready to write. 

" If Caesar die to-morrow," he said, " Rome will not be 
all bereft. There is at least one other with spirit to take 
his place. Give me six." 



BEN-HUR ; A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 347 

" Six be it," answered Messala. 

There was another shout loader than the first. 

" Six be it," repeated Messala. " Six to one — the differ- 
ence between a Roman and a Jew. And, having found it, 
now, O redemptor of the flesh of swine, let us on. The 
amount — and quickly. The consul may send for thee, and 
I will then be bereft." 

Sanballat took the laugh against him coolly, and wrote, 
and offered the writing to Mesaia. 

" Read, read !" everybody demanded. 

And Mesaia read : 

" J/m. — Chariot-race. Messala of Rome, in wager with Sanballat, 
also of Rome, sajs he will beat Ben-Hur, the Jew. Amount of wager, 
twenty talents. Odds to Sanballat, six to one. 

" Witnesses : Sanballat." 

There was no noise, no motion. Each person seemed 
held in the pose the reading found him. Messala stared at 
the memorandum, while the eyes which had him in view 
opened wide, and stared at him. He felt the gaze, and 
thought rapidly. So lately he stood in the same place, and 
in the same way hectored the countrymen around him. 
They would remember it. If he refused to sign, his hero- 
ship was lost. And sign he could not; he was not worth 
one hundred talents, nor the fifth part of the sum. Sud- 
denly his mind became a blank ; he stood speechless ; the 
color fled his face. An idea at last came to his relief. 

" Thou Jew I" he said, " where hast thou twenty talents? 
Show me." 

Sanballat's provoking smile deepened. 

" There," he replied, offering Messala a paper. 

" Read, read I" arose all around. 

Again Messala read : 

"At Antioch, Taammiuz \^ih day. 
" The bearer, Sanballat of Rome, hath now to his order with me 
fifty talents, coin of Caesar. Sxhoiodss." 

" Fifty talents, flf ty talents !" echoed the throng, in amaze- 
ment. 

Then Drusus came to the rescue. 

"By Hercules!" he shouted, "the paper lies, and the 



348 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

Jew is a liar. Who but Caesar hatli fifty talents at order ? 
Down with the insolent white !" 

The cry was angry, and it was angrily repeated ; yet San- 
ballat kept his seat, and his smile grew more exasperating 
the longer he waited. At length Messala spoke. 

" Hush ! One to one, my countrymen — one to one, for 
love of our ancient Roman name." 

The timely action recovered him his ascendency. 

" O thou circumcised dog !" he continued, to Sanballat, 
" I gave thee six to one, did I not f ' 

" Yes," said the Jew, quietly. 

" Well, give me now the fixing of the amount." 

" With reserve, if the amount be trifling, have thy will," 
answered Sanballat. 

" Write, then, five in place of twenty." 

" Hast thou so much ?" 

" By the mother of the gods, I will show you receipts." 

" Nay, the word of so brave a Roman must pass. Only 
make the sum even — six make it, and I will write." 

" Write it so." 

And forthwith they exchanged writings. 

Sanballat immediately arose and looked around him, a 
sneer in place of his smile. No man better than he knew 
those with whom he was dealing. 

" Romans," he said, " another wager, if you dare ! Five 
talents against five talents that the white will win. I chal- 
lenge you collectively." 

They were again surprised* 

" What !" he cried, louder. " Shall it be said in the Cir- 
cus to-morrow that a dog of Israel went into the saloon of 
the palace full of Roman nobles — among them the scion 
of a Csesar — and laid five talents before them in challenge, 
and they had not the courage to take it up ?" 

The sting was unendurable. 

" Have done, O insolent !" said Drusus, " write the chal- 
lenge, and leave it on the table ; and to-morrow, if we find 
thou hast indeed so much money to put at such hopeless 
hazard, I, Drusus, promise it shall be taken." 

Sanballat wrote again, and, rising, said, unmoved as ever, 
" See, Drusus, I leave the offer with you. When it is signed, 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 349 

send it to me any time before tbe race begins. . I will be 
found with the consul in a seat over the Porta Pompse, 
Peace to you ; peace to all." 

He bowed, and departed, careless of the shout of derision 
with which they pursued him out of the door. 

In the night the story of the prodigious wager flew along 
the streets and over the city ; and Ben-Hur, lying with his 
four, was told of it, and also that Messala's whole fortune 
was on the hazard. 

And he slept never so soundly. 



Chapter XII. 

The Circus at Antioch stood on the south bank of the 
river, nearly opposite the island, differing in no respect from 
the plan of such buildings in general. 

In the purest sense, the games were a gift to the public ; 
consequently, everybody was free to attend ; and, vast as 
the holding capacity of the structure was, so fearful were 
the people, on this occasion, lest there should not be room 
for them, that, early the day before the opening of the ex- 
hibition, they took up all the vacant spaces in the vicinity, 
where their temporary shelter suggested an army in waiting. 

At midnight the entrances were thrown wide, and the 
rabble, surging in, occupied the quarters assigned to them, 
from which nothing less than an earthquake or an army 
with spears could have dislodged them. They dozed the 
night away on the benches, and breakfasted there; and 
there the close of the exercises found them, patient and 
sight-hungry as in the beginning. 

The better people, their seats secured, began moving tow- 
ards the Circus about the first hour of the morning, the 
noble and very rich among them distinguished by litters 
and retinues of liveried servants. 

By the second hour, the efflux from the city was a stream 
unbroken and innumerable. 

Exactly as the gnomon of the official dial up in the cita- 
del pointed the second hour half gone, the legion, in full 



350 BEX-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

panoply, and with all its standards on exhibit, descended 
from Mount Sulpius ; and when the rear of the last cohort 
disappeared in the bridge, Antioch was literally abandoned 
— not that the Circus could hold the multitude, but that 
the multitude was gone out to it, nevertheless. 

A great concourse on the river shore witnessed the con- 
sul come over from the island in a barge of state. As the 
great man landed, and was received by the legion, the mar- 
tial show for one brief moment transcended the attraction 
of the Circus. 

At the third hour, the audience, if such it may be termed, 
was assembled; at last, a flourish of trumpets called for 
silence, and instantly the gaze of over a hundred thousand 
persons was directed towards a pile forming the eastern 
section of the building. 

There was a basement first, broken in the middle by a 
broad arched passage, called the Porta Pompae, over which, 
on an elevated tribunal magnificently decorated with insig- 
nia and legionary standards, the consul sat in the place of 
honor. On both sides of the passage the basement was 
divided into stalls termed carceres^ each protected in front by 
massive gates swung to statuesque pilasters. Over the stalls 
next was a cornice crowned by a low balustrade; back of 
which the seats arose in theatre arrangement, all occupied 
by a throng of dignitaries superbly attired. The pile ex- 
tended the width of the Circus, and was flanked on both 
sides by towers which, besides helping the architects give 
grace to their work, served the velaria^ or purple awnings, 
stretched between them so as to throw the whole quarter 
in a shade that became exceedingly grateful as the day ad- 
vanced. 

This structure, it is now thought, can be made useful in 
helping the reader to a suflBcient understanding of the ar- 
rangement of the rest of the interior of the Circus. He 
has only to fancy himself seated on the tribunal with the 
consul, facing to the west, where everything is under his 
eye. 

On the right and left, if he will look, he will see the 
main entrances, very ample, and guarded by gates hinged 
to the towers. 



BEN.HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 351 

Directly below him is the arena — a level plane of con- 
siderable extent, covered with fine white sand. There all 
the trials will take place except the running. 

Looking across this sanded arena westwardly still, there 
is a pedestal of marble supporting three low conical pillars 
of gray stone, much carven. Many an eye will hunt for 
those pillars before the day is done, for they are the first 
goal, and mark the beginning and end of the race-course. 
Behind the pedestal, leaving a passage-way and space for an 
altar, commences a wall ten or twelve feet in breadth and 
five or six in height, extending thence exactly two hundred 
yards, or one Olympic stadium. At the farther, or west- 
ward, extremity of the wall there is another pedestal, sur- 
mounted with pillars which mark the second goal. 

The racers will enter the course on the right of the first 
goal, and keep the wall all the time to their left. The be- 
ginning and ending points of the contest lie, consequently, 
directly in front of the consul across the arena; and for 
that reason his seat was admittedly the most desirable in 
the Circus. 

Now if the reader, who is still supposed to be seated on 
the consular tribunal over the Porta Pompse, will look up 
from the ground arrangement of the interior, the first point 
to attract his notice will be the marking of the outer bound- 
ary-line of the course — ^that is, a plain-faced, solid wall, 
fifteen or twenty feet in height, with a balustrade on its 
cope, like that over the carceres, or stalls, in the east. This 
balcony, if followed round the course, will be found broken 
in three places to allow passages of exit and entrance, two 
in the north and one in the west ; the latter very ornate, and 
called the Gate of Triumph, because, when all is over, the 
victors will pass out that way, crowned, and with triumphal 
escort and ceremonies. 

At the west end the balcony encloses the course in the 
form of a half -circle, and is made to uphold two great 
galleries. 

Directly behind the balustrade on the coping of the bal- 
cony is the first seat, from which ascend the succeeding 
benches, each higher than the one in front of it ; giving to 
view a spectacle of surpassing interest — the spectacle of a 



352 BEN-UUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

vast space ruddy and glistening with human faces, and rich 
with van-colored costumes. 

The commonalty occupy quarters over in the west, be- 
ginning at the point of termination of an awning, stretched, 
it would seem, for the accommodation of the better classes 
exclusively. 

Having thus the whole interior of the Circus under view 
at the moment of the sounding of the trumpets, let the 
reader next imagine the multitude seated and sunk to sud- 
den silence, and motionless in its intensity of interest. 

Out of the Porta Pompse over in the east rises a sound 
mixed of voices and instruments harmonized. Presently, 
forth issues the chorus of the procession with which the 
celebration begins ; the editor and civic authorities of the 
city, givers of the games, follow in robes and garlands; 
then the gods, some on platforms borne by men, others in 
great four-wheel carriages gorgeously decorated ; next them, 
again, the contestants of the day, each in costume exactly 
as he will run, wrestle, leap, box, or drive. 

Slowly crossing the arena, the procession proceeds to 
make circuit of the course. The display is beautiful and 
imposing. Approval runs before it in a shout, as the water 
rises and swells in front of a boat in motion. If the dumb, 
figured gods make no sign of appreciation of the welcome, 
the editor and his associates are not so backward. 

The reception of the athletes is even more demonstrative, 
for there is not a man in the assemblage who has not some- 
thing in wager upon them, though but a mite or farthing. 
And it is noticeable, as the classes move by, that the fa- 
vorites among them are speedily singled out : either their 
names are loudest in the uproar, or they are more profuse- 
ly showered with wreaths and garlands tossed to them from 
the balcony. 

If there is a question as to the popularity with the pub- 
lic of the several games, it is now put to rest. To the 
splendor of the chariots and the superexcellent beauty of 
the horses, the charioteers add the personality necessary to 
perfect the charm of their display. Their tunics, short, 
sleeveless, and of the finest woollen texture, are of the as- 
signed colors. A horseman accompanies each one of them 
except Ben-Hur, who, for some leaabii— ^ombly distrust — 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 353 

has chosen to go alone ; so, too, they are all helmeted but 
him. As they approach, the spectators stand upon the 
benches, and there is a sensible deepening of the clamor, 
in which a sharp listener may detect the shrill piping of 
women and children ; at the same time, the things roseate 
flying from the balcony thicken into a storm, and, striking 
the men, drop into the chariot-beds, which are threatened 
with filling to the tops. Even the horses have a share in 
the ovation ; nor may it be said they are less conscious than 
their masters of the honors they receive. 

Very soon, as with the other contestants, it is made ap- 
parent that some of the drivers are more in favor than oth- 
ers ; and then the discovery follows that nearly every indi- 
vidual on the benches, women and children as well as men, 
wears a color, most frequently a ribbon upon the breast or 
in the hair : now it is green, now yellow, now blue ; but, 
searching the great body carefully, it is manifest that there 
is a preponderance of white, and scarlet and gold. 

In a modern assemblage called together as this one is, 
particularly where there are sums at hazard upon the race, 
a preference would be decided by the qualities or perform- 
ance of the horses ; here, however, nationality was the rule. 
If the Byzantine and Sidonian found small support, it was 
because their cities were scarcely represented on the bench- 
es. On their side, the Greeks, though very numerous, were 
divided between the Corinthian and the Athenian, leaving 
but a scant showing of green and yellow. Messala's scarlet 
and gold would have been but little better had not the cit- 
izens of Antioch, proverbially a race of courtiers, joined the 
Romans by adopting the color of their favorite. There 
were left then the country people, or Syrians, the Jews, and 
the Arabs ; and they, from faith in the blood of the sheik's 
four, blent largely with hate of the Romans, whom they de- 
sired, above all things, to see beaten and humbled, mounted 
the white, making the most noisy, and probably the most 
numerous, faction of all. 

As the charioteers move on in the circuit, the excitement 
increases ; at the second goal, where, especially in the gal- 
leries, the white is the ruling color, the people exhaust theit 
flowers and rive the air with screams. 
23 



354 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

'^Messala! Messala!" 

"Ben-Hur! Ben-Hur!" 

Such are the cries. 

Upon the passage of the procession, the factionists take 
their seats and resume conversation. 

"Ah, by Bacchus! was he not handsome?" exclaims a 
woman, whose Romanism is betrayed by the colors flying 
in her hair. 

"And how splendid his chariot!" replies a neighbor, of 
the same proclivities. " It is all ivory and gold. Jupiter 
grant he wins !" 

The notes on the bench behind them were entii*ely differ- 
ent. 

"A hundred shekels on the Jew !" 

The voice is high and shrill. 

" Nay, be thon not rash," whispers a moderating friend 
to the speaker. " The children of Jacob are not much giv- 
en to Gentile sports, which are too often accursed in the 
sight of the Lord." 

"True, but saw you ever one more cool and assured? 
And what an arm he has !" 

"And what horses!" says a third. 

"And for that," a fourth one adds, " they say he has all 
the tricks of the Romans." 

A woman completes the eulogium. 

" Yes, and he is even handsomer than the Roman." 

Thus encouraged, the enthusiast shrieks again, " A hun- 
dred shekels on the Jew !" 

" Thou fool !" answers an Antiochian, from a bench well 
forward on the balcony. " Ejiowest thou not there are fif- 
ty talents laid against him, six to one, on Messala ? Put up 
thy shekels, lest Abraham rise and smite thee." 

" Ha, ha ! thou ass of Antioch ! Cease thy bray. Know- 
est thou not it was Messala betting on himself ?" 

Such the reply. 

And so ran the controversy, not always good-natured. 

When at length the march was ended and the Porta 
Pompae received back the procession, Ben-Hur knew he had 
his prayer. 

Tie eyes of the East were upon his contest with Messala. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 355 



Chapter XIIL 

About three o'clock, speaking in modern style, the pro- 
gramme was concluded except the chariot-race. The edi- 
tor, wisely considerate of the comfort of the people, chose 
that time for a recess. At once the vomitoria were thrown 
open, and all who could hastened to the portico outside 
where the restaurateurs had their quarters. Those who re- 
mained yawned, talked, gossiped, consulted their tablets, 
and, all distinctions else forgotten, merged into but two 
classes — the winners, who were happy, and the losers, who 
were grum and captious. 

Now, however, a third class of spectators, composed of 
citizens who desired only to witness the chariot-race, avail- 
ed themselves of the recess to come in and take their re- 
served seats ; by so doing they thought to attract the least 
attention and give the least offence. Among these were 
Simonides and his party, whose places were in the vicinity 
of the main entrance on the north side, opposite the consul. 

As the four stout servants carried the merchant in his 
chair up the aisle, curiosity was much excited. Presently 
some one called his name. Those about caught it and 
passed it on along the benches to the west ; and there was 
hurried climbing on seats to get sight of the man about 
whom common report had coined and put in circulation a 
romance so mixed of good fortune and bad that the like 
had never been known or heard of before. 

Uderim was also recognized and warmly greeted ; but no- 
body knew Balthasar or the two women who followed him 
closely veiled. 

The people made way for the party respectfully, and the 
ushers seated them in easy speaking distance of each other 
down by the balustrade overlooking the arena. In provi- 
dence of comfort, they sat upon cushions and had stools 
for foot-rests. 

The women were Iras and Esther. 



356 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

Upon being seated, the latter cast a frightened look over 
the Circus, and drew the veil closer aboat her face ; while 
the l^yptian, letting her veil fall apon her shoulders, gave 
herself to view, and gazed at the scene with the seeming 
onconscioosness of being stared at, which, in a woman, is 
nsnally the result of long social habitade. 

The new-comers generally were yet making their first ex- 
amination of the great spectacle, beginning with the consol 
and his attendants, when some workmen ran in and coni- 
menced to stretch a chalked rope across the arena from bal- 
cony to balcony in front of the pillars of the first goaL 

Abont the same time, also, six men came in through the 
Porta PompaB and took post, one in front of each occupied 
stall ; whereat there was a prolonged hum of voices in ev- 
ery quarter. 

"oee, see! The green goes to number four on the 
right; the Athenian b there." 

"And Messala — ^yes, he is in number two." 

"TheCJorinthian— " 

" Watch the white ! See, he crosses over, he stops ; 
number one it is — number one on the left" 

" No, the black stops there, and the white at number two." 

" So it is." 

These gate-keepers, it should be understood, were dressed 
in tunics colored like those of the competing charioteers; 
so, when they took their stations, everybody knew the par- 
ticular stall in which his favorite was that moment waiting. 

" Did you ever see Messala f the Egyptian asked Esther. 

The Jewess shuddered as she answered no. If not her 
father's enemy, the Roman was Ben-Hur's. 

" He is beautiful as Apollo." 

As Iras spoke, her large eyes brightened and she shook 
her jewelled fan. Esther looked at her with the thought, 
" Is he, then, so much handsomer than Ben-Hur ?" Next 
moment she heard Sderim say to her father, "Tes, his 
stall is number two on the left of the Porta Pompas ;" and, 
thinking it was of Ben-Hur he spoke, her eyes turned that 
mjr* Taking but the briefest glance at the wattled face 
0i the gate, she drew the veil close and muttered a little 




BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 357 

Presently Sanballat came to the party. 

** I am just from the stalls, O sheik," he said, bowing 
gravely to Ilderim, who began combing his beard, while his 
eyes glittered with eager inquiry. " The horses are in per- 
fect condition." 

Ilderim replied simply, " If they are beaten, I pray it be 
by some other than Messala." 

Turning then to Simonides, Sanballat drew out a tablet, 
saying, " I bring you also something of interest. I reported, 
you will remember, the wager concluded with Messala last 
night, and stated that I left another which, if taken, was to 
be delivered to me in writing to-day before the race began. 
Here it is." 

Simonides took the tablet and read the memorandum 
carefully. 

" Yes," he said, " their emissary came to ask me if you 
had so much money with me. Keep the tablet close. If 
you lose, you know where to come ; if you win " — his face 
knit hard — " if you win — ah, friend, see to it ! See the sign- 
ers escape not ; hold them to the last shekel. That is what 
they would with us." 

" Trust me," replied the purveyor. 

" Will you not sit with us ?" asked Simonides. 

" You are very good," the other returned ; " but if I leave 
the consul, young Rome yonder will boil over. Peace to 
you ; peace to all." 

At length the recess came to an end. 

The trumpeters blew a call at which the absentees rushed 
back to their places. At the same time, some attendants 
appeared in the arena, and, climbing upon the division wall, 
went to an entablature near the second goal at the west end, 
and placed upon it seven wooden balls ; then returning to 
the first goal, upon an entablature there they set up seven 
other pieces of wood hewn to represent dolphins. 

" What shall they do with the balls and fishes, sheik?" 
asked Balthasar. 

" Hast thou never attended a race?" 

" Never before ; and hardly know I why I am here." 

" Well, they are to keep the count. At the end of each 
round run thoa shalt see one ball and one fish taken down." 



36a BEX-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

The preparations were now complete, and presently a 
trampeter in gaudy uniform arose by the editor, ready to 
blow the signS of commencement promptly at his order. 
Straightway the stir of the people and the hum of their 
conversation died away. Every face near-by, and every face 
in the lessening perspective, turned to the east, as all eyes 
settled upon the gates of the six stalls which shut in the 
competitors. 

The unusual flush upon his face gave proof that even Si- 
monides had caught the universal excitement. liderim 
pulled his beard fast and furious. 

"Look now for the Roman," said the fair Egyptian to 
Esther, who did not hear her, for, with close-drawn veil and 
beating heart, she sat watching for Ben-Hur. 

The structure containing the stalls, it should be observed, 
was in form of the segment of a circle, retired on the right 
so that its central point was projected forward, and midway 
the course, on the starting side of the first goal. Every stall, 
consequently, was equally distant from the starting-line or 
chalked rope above mentioned. 

The trumpet sounded short and sharp ; whereupon the 
starters, one for each chariot, leaped down from behind the 
pillars of the goal, ready to give assistance if any of the 
fours proved unmanageable. 

Again the trumpet blew, and simultaneously the gate- 
keepers threw the stalls open. 

First appeared the mounted attendants of the charioteers, 
five in all, Ben-Hur having rejected the service. The chalked 
line was lowered to let them pass, then raised again. They 
were beautifully mounted, yet scarcely observed as they rode 
forward ; for all the time the trampling of eager horses, and 
the voices of drivers scarcely less eager, were heard behind 
in the stalls, so that one might not look away an instant 
from the gaping doors. 

The chalked line up again, the gate-keepers called their 
men ; instantly the ushers on the balcony waved their hands, 
and shouted with all their strength, " Down ! down !" 

As well have whistled to stay a storm. 

Forth from each stall, like missiles in a volley from so 
maDjr great guns, rushed tii^ «.vx fours \ and up the vast as- 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHBIST. 3-3 

semblage arose, electrified and irrepressible, and, leaping 
upon the benches, filled the Circus and the air above it with 
yells and screams. This was the time for which they had 
so patiently waited ! — this the moment of supreme interest 
treasured up in talk and dreams since the proclamation of 
the games ! 

" He is come — there — look !" cried Iras, pointing to Mes- 
sala. 

" I see him," answered Esther, looking at Ben-Hur. 

The veil was withdrawn. For an instant the little Jewess 
was brave. An idea of the joy there is in doing an heroic 
deed under the eyes of a multitude came to her, and she 
understood ever after how, at such times, the souls of men, 
in the frenzy of performance, laugh at death or forget it 
utterly. 

The competitors were now under view from nearly every 
part of the Circus, yet the race was not begun ; they had 
first to make the chalked line successfully. 

The line was stretched for the purpose of equalizing the 
start. If it were dashed upon, discomfiture of man and 
horses might bo apprehended ; on the other hand, to ap- 
proach it timidly was to incur the hazard of being thrown 
behind in the beginning of the race ; and that was certain 
forfeit of the great advantage always striven for — the 
position next the division wall on the inner line of the 
course. 

This trial, its perils and consequences, the spectators knew 
thoroughly ; and if the opinion of old Nestor, uttered what 
time he handed the reins to his son, were true — 

'* It is not strength, but art, obtained the prize, 
And to be swift is less than to be wise " — 

all on the benches might well look for warning of the win- 
ner to be now given, justifying the interest with which they 
breathlessly watched for the result. 

The arena swam in a dazzle of light ; yet each driver 
looked first thing for the rope, then for the coveted inner 
line. So, all six aiming at the same point and speeding furi- 
ously, a collision seemed inevitable ; nor that merely. What 
if the editor, at the last moment, dissatisfied with the at&i:t^ 



360 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

should withhold the signal to drop the rope? Or if he 
should not give it in time ? 

The crossing was about two hundred and fifty feet in 
width. Quick the eye, steady the hand, unerring the judg- 
ment required. If now one look away ! or his mind wander ! 
or a rein slip ! And what attraction in the ensemble of the 
thousands over the spreading balcony ! Calculating upon 
the natural impulse to give one glance — just one — in sooth 
of curiosity or vanity, malice might be there with an artifice ; 
while friendship and love, did they serve the same result, 
might be as deadly as malice. 

The divine last touch in perfecting the beautiful is anima- 
tion. Can we accept the saying, then these latter days, so 
tame in pastime and dull in sports, have scarcely anything 
to compare to the spectacle offered by the six contestants. 
Let the reader try to fancy it ; let him first look down upon 
the arena, and see it glistening in its frame of dull-gray 
granite walls; let him then, in this perfect field, see the 
chariots, light of wheel, very graceful, and ornate as paint 
and burnishing can make them — Messala*s rich with ivory 
and gold ; let him see the drivers, erect and statuesque, un- 
disturbed by the motion of the cars, their limbs naked, and 
fresh and ruddy with the healthful polish of the baths — in 
their right hands goads, suggestive of torture dreadful to 
the thought — in their left hands, held in careful separation, 
and high, that they may not interfere with view of the steeds, 
the reins passing taut from the fore ends of the carriage- 
poles ; let him see the fours, chosen for beauty as well as 
speed ; let him see them in magnificent action, their masters 
not more conscious of the situation and all that is asked and 
hoped from them — their heads tossing, nostrils in play, now 
distent, now contracted — limbs too dainty for the sand which 
they touch but to spurn — limbs slender, yet with impact 
crushing as hammers — every muscle of the rounded bodies 
instinct with glorious life, swelling, diminishing, justifying 
the world in taking from them its ultimate measure of force ; 
finally, along with chariots, drivers, horses, let the reader see 
the accompanying shadows fly ; and, with such distinctness 
as the picture comes, he may share the satisfaction and deep- 
er pieasare of those to whom it was a thrilling fact, not a 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 361 

feeble fancy. Every age has its plenty of sorrows ; heaven 
help where there are no pleasures ! 

The competitors having started each on the shortest line 
for the position next the wall, yielding would be like giving 
up the race ; and who dared yield ? It is not in common 
nature to change a purpose in mid-career ; and the cries of 
encouragement from the balcony were indistinguishable and 
indescribable : a roar which had the same effect upon all the 
drivers. 

The fours neared the rope together. Then the trumpeter 
by the editor's side blew a signal vigorously. Twenty feet 
away it was not heard. Seeing the action, however, the 
judges dropped the rope, and not an instant too soon, for 
the hoof of one of Messala's horses struck it as it fell. Noth- 
ing daunted, the Roman shook out his long lash, loosed the 
reins, leaned forward, and, with a triumphant shout, took the 
wall. 

"Jove with us! Jove with us!" yelled all the Roman 
. faction, in a frenzy of delight. 

As Messala turned in, the bronze lion's head at the end of 
his axle caught the fore-leg of the Athenian's right-hand trace- 
mate, flinging the brute over against its yoke-fellow. Both 
staggered, struggled, and lost their headway. The ushers 
had their will at least in part. The thousands held their 
breath with horror ; only up where the consul sat was there 
shouting. 

" Jove with us !" screamed Drusus, frantically. 

" He wins ! Jove with us !" answered his associates, see- 
ing Messala speed on. 

Tablet in hand, Sanballat turned to them ; a crash from 
the course below stopped his speech, and he could not but 
look that way. 

Messala having passed, the Corinthian was the only con- 
testant on the Athenian's right, and to that side the latter 
tried to turn his broken four ; and then, as ill-fortune would 
have it, the wheel of the Byzantine, who was next on the 
left, struck the tail-piece of his chariot, knocking his feet 
from under him. There was a crash, a scream of rage and 
fear, and the unfortunate Cleanthes fell under the hoofs of 
his own steeds : a terrible sight, against which Esther cov- 
ered her eyes. 



362 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. ' 

On swept the Corinthian, on the Byzantine, on the Sido- 
nian. 

Sanballat looked for Ben-Hur, and turned again to Dni- 
sus and his coterie. 

" A hundred sestertii on the Jew !" he cried. 

" Taken !" answered Drusus. 

** Another hundred on the Jew !" shouted Sanballat. 

Nobody appeared to hear him. He called again ; the sit- 
uation below was too absorbing, and they were too busy 
shouting, ^* Messala ! Messala ! Jove with us !^' 

When the Jewess ventured to look again, a party of work- 
men were removing the horses and broken car ; another par- 
ty were taking off the man himself ; and every bench upon 
which there was a Greek was vocal with execrations and 
prayers for vengeance. Suddenly she dropped her hands ; 
Ben-Hur, unhurt, was to the front, coursing freely forward 
along with the Roman ! Behind them, in a group, followed 
the Sidonian, the Corinthian, and the Byzantine. 

The race was on ; the souls of the racers were in it ; over 
them bent the myriads. 



Chapter XIV. 

When the dash for position began, Ben-Hur, as we have 
seen, was on the extreme left of the six. For a moment, 
like the others, he was half blinded by the light in the arena ; 
yet he managed to catch sight of his antagonists and divine 
their purpose. At Messala, who was more than an antago- 
nist to him, he gave one searching look. The air of passion- 
less hauteur characteristic of the fine patrician face was 
there as of old, and so was the Italian beauty, which the 
helmet rather increased; but more — it may have been a 
jealous fancy, or the effect of the brassy shadow in which 
the features were at the moment cast, still the Israelite 
thought he saw the soul of the man as through a glass, dark- 
ly : cruel, cunning, desperate ; not so excited as determined 
—a soul in a tension of watchfulness and fierce resolve. 

In a time not longer than was required to turn to his 



BEN.HCR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 333 

four again, Ben-Hur felt his own resolation harden to a 
like temper. At whatever cost, at all hazards, he would hum- 
ble this enemy ! Prize, friends, wagers, honor— everything 
that can be thought of as a possible interest in the race 
was lost in the one deliberate purpose. Regard for life even 
should not hold him back. Yet there was no passion, on 
his part ; no blinding rush of heated blood from heart to 
brain, and back again; no impulse to fling himself upon 
Fortune: he did not believe in Fortune; far otherwise. 
He had his plan, and, confiding in himself, he settled to the 
task never more observant, never more capable. The air 
about him seemed aglow with a renewed and perfect trans- 
parency. 

When not half-way across the arena, he saw that Messala^s 
rush would, if there was no collision, and the rope fell, give 
him the wall ; that the rope would fall, he ceased as soon 
to doubt ; and, further, it came to him, a sudden flash-like 
insight, that Messala knew it was to be let drop at the last 
moment (prearrangement with the editor could safely reach 
that point in the contest) ; and it suggested, what more 
Roman-like than for the official to lend himself to a country- 
man who, besides being so popular, had also so much at 
stake? There could be no other accounting for the confi- 
dence with which Messala pushed his four forward the in- 
stant his competitors were prudentially checking their fours 
in front of the obstruction — no other except madness. 

It is one thing to see a necessity and another to act 
upon it. Ben-Hur yielded the wall for the time. 

The rope fell, and all the four but his sprang into the 
course under urgency of voice and lash. He drew head 
to the right, and, with all the speed of his Arabs, darted 
across the trails of his opponents, the angle of movement 
being such as to lose the least time and gain the greatest 
possible advance. So, while the spectators were shivering 
at the Athenian's mishap, and the Sidonian, Byzantine, and 
Corinthian were striving, with such skill as they possessed, 
to avoid involvement in the ruin, Ben-Hur swept around and 
took the course neck and neck with Messala, though on the 
outside. The marvellous skill shown in making the change 
thus from the extreme left across to the right without &^ 



364 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

preciable loss did not fail the sharp eyes upon the benches: 
the Circus seemed to rock and rock again with prolonged 
applause. Then Esther clasped her hands in glad surprise ; 
then Sanballat, smiling, offered his hundred sestertii a sec- 
ond time without a taker ; and then the Romans began to 
doubt, thinking Messala might have found an equal, if not a 
master, and that in an Israelite ! 

And now, racing together side by side, a narrow interval 
between them, the two neared the second goal. 

The pedestal of the three pillars there, viewed from the 
west, was a stone wall in the form of a half-circle, around 
which the course and opposite balcony were bent in exact 
parallelism. Making this turn was considered in all respects 
the most telling test of a charioteer ; it was, in fact, the very 
feat in which Orestes failed. As an involuntary admission 
of interest on the part of the spectators, a hush fell over 
all the Circus, so that for the first time in the race the rat- 
tle and clang of the cars plunging after the tugging steeds 
were distinctly heard. Then, it would seem, Messala observed 
Ben-Hur, and recognized him ; and at once the audacity of 
the man flamed out in an astonishing manner. 

" Down Eros, up Mars !'* he shouted, whirling his lash 
with practised hand — " Down Eros, up Mars !" he repeated, 
and caught the well-doing Arabs of Ben-Hur a cut the like 
of which they had never known. 

The blow was seen in every quarter, and the amazement 
was universal. The silence deepened; up on the benches 
behind the consul the boldest held his breath, waiting for 
the outcome. Only a moment thus: then, involuntarily, 
down from the balcony, as thunder falls, burst the indig- 
aant cry of the people. 

The four sprang forward affrighted. No hand had ever 
been laid upon them except in love; they had been nurt- 
ured ever so tenderly ; and as they grew, their confidence in 
man became a lesson to men beautiful to see. What should 
such dainty natures do under such indignity but leap as 
from death ? 

Forward they sprang as with one impulse, and forward 

leaped the car. Past question, every experience is service- 

able to as. Where got Ben-Hur the large hand and mighty 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. f^Qt^ 

grip which helped him now so well ? Where but from the 
oar with which so long he fought the sea ? And what was 
this spring of the floor under his feet to the dizzy eccentric 
lurch with which in the old time the trembling ship yielded 
to the beat of staggering billows, drunk with their power ? 
So he kept his place, and gave the four free rein, and call- 
ed to them in soothing voice, trying merely to guide them 
round the dangerous turn; and before the fever of the 
people began to abate, he had back the mastery. Nor that 
only : on approaching the first goal, he was again side by 
side with Messala, bearing with him the sympathy and ad- 
miration of every one not a Roman. So clearly was the 
feeling shown, so vigorous its manifestation, that Messala, 
with all his boldness, felt it unsafe to trifle further. 

As the cars whirled round the goal, Esther caught sight 
of Ben-Hur's face — a little pale, a little higher raised, other- 
wise calm, even placid. 

Immediately a man climbed on the entablature at the 
west end of the division wall, and took down one of the 
conical wooden balls. A dolphin on the east entablature 
was taken down at the same time. 

In like manner, the second ball and second dolphin dis- 
appeared. 

And then the third ball and third dolphin. 

Three rounds concluded : still Messala held the inside 
position ; still Ben-Hur moved with him side by side ; still 
the other competitors followed as before. The contest 
began to have the appearance of one of the double races 
which became so popular in Rome during the later Csesa- 
rean period — Messala and Ben-Hur in the first, the Corin- 
thian, Sidonian, and Byzantine in the second. Meantime the 
ushers succeeded in returning the multitude to their seats, 
though the clamor continued to run the rounds, keeping, as 
it were, even pace with the rivals in the course below. 

In the fifth round the Sidonian succeeded in getting a 
place outside Ben-Hur, but lost it directly. 

The sixth round was entered upon without change of 
relative position. 

Gradually the speed had been quickened — gradually the 
blood of the competitors warmed with the work. Men and 



366 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

beasts seemed to know alike that the final crisis was near, 
bringing the time for the winner to assert himself. 

The interest which from the beginning had centred 
chiefly in the struggle between the Roman and the Jew, 
with an intense and general sympathy for the latter, was 
fast changing to anxiety on his account. On all the benches 
the spectators bent forward motionless, except as their faces 
turned following the contestants. Ilderim quitted combing 
his beard, and Esther forgot her fears. 

"A hundred sestertii on the Jew!" cried Sanballat to 
the Romans under the consul's awning. 

There was no reply. 

" A talent — or five talents, or ten ; choose ye !" 

He shook his tablets at them defiantly. 

" I will take thy sestertii," answered a Roman youth, pre- 
paring to write. 

" Do not so," interposed a friend. 

"Why?" 

" Messala hath reached his utmost speed. See him lean 
over his chariot-rim, the reins loose as flying ribbons. Look 
then at the Jew." 

The first one looked. 

" By Hercules !" he replied, his countenance falling. 
" The dog throws all his weight on the bits. I see, I see I 
If the gods help not our friend, he will be run away with 
by the Israelite. No, not yet. Look ! Jove with us, Jove 
with us !" 

The cry, swelled by every Latin tongue, shook the veloir 
via over the consul's head. 

If it were true that Messala had attained his utmost speed, 
the effort was with effect ; slowly but certainly he was be- 
ginning to forge ahead. His horses were running with their 
heads low down ; from the balcony their bodies appeared 
actually to skim the earth ; their nostrils showed blood-red 
in expansion ; their eyes seemed straining in their sockets. 
Certainly the good steeds were doing their best ! How 
long could they keep the pace ? It was but the commence- 
ment of the sixth round. On they dashed. As they neared 
the second goal, Ben-Hur turned in behind the Roman's car. 

The joy ot the Messala f aiction reached its bound : they 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 367 

screamed and howled, and tossed their colors; and San- 
ballat filled his tablets with wagers of their tendering. 

Malluch, in the lower gallery over the Gate of Triumph, 
found it hard to keep his cheer. He had cherished the 
vague hint dropped to him by Ben-Hur of something to 
happen in the turning of the western pillars. It was the 
fifth round, yet the something had not come ; and he had 
said to himself, the sixth will bring it ; but, lo I Ben-Hur 
was hardly holding a place at the tail of his enemy's car. 

Over in the east end, Simonides' party held their peace. 
The merchant's head was bent low. Ilderim tugged at his 
beard, and dropped his brows till there was nothing of his 
eyes but an occasional sparkle of light. Esther scarcely 
breathed. Iras alone appeared glad. 

Along the home-stretch — sixth round — Messala leading, 
next him Ben-Hur, and so close it was the old story : 

" First flew Eumelus on Pheretian steeds ; 
With those of Tros bold Diomed succeeds ; 
Close on Eumelus* back they puff the wind, 
And seem just mounting on his car behind ; 
Full on his neck he feels the sultry breeze, 
And, hovering o*er, their stretching shadow sees." 

Thus to the first goal, and round it. Messala, fearful of 
losing his place, hugged the stony wall with perilous clasp ; 
a foot to the left, and he had been dashed to pieces ; yet, 
when the tuni was finished, no man, looking at the wheel- 
tracks of the two cars, could have said, here went Messala, 
there the Jew. They left but one trace behind them. 

As they whirled by, Esther saw Ben-Hur's face again, and 
it was whiter than before. 

Simonides, shrewder than Esther, said to Ilderim, the mo- 
ment the rivals turned into the course, " I am no judge, 
^ood sheik, if Ben-Hur be not about to execute some design. 
His face hath that look." 

To which Ilderim answered, " Saw you how clean they 
were and fresh ? By the splendor of God, friend, they have 
not been running ! But now watch !" 

One ball and one dolphin remained on the entablatures ; 
and all the people drew a long breath, for the beginning of 
the end was at hand. 



368 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHBIST. 

first, the Sidonian gave the scourge to his four, and, 
smarting with fear and pain, they dashed desperately for- 
ward, promising for a brief time to go to the front. The 
effort ended in promise. Next, the Byzantine and Corin- 
thian each made the trial with like result, after which they 
were practically out of the race. Thereupon, with a readi- 
ness perfectly explicable, all the factions except the Romans 
joined hope in Ben-Hur, and openly indulged their feeling. 

" Ben-Hur! Ben-Hur !" they shouted, and the blent voices 
of the many rolled overwhelmingly against the consular 
stand. 

From the benches above him as he passed, the favor de- 
scended in fierce injunctions. 

" Speed thee, Jew !" 

" Take the wall now !" 

" On ! loose the Arabs ! Give them rein and scourge !" 

*^ Let him not have the turn on thee again. Now or 
never !" 

Over the balustrade they stooped low, stretching their 
hands imploringly to him. 

Either he did not hear, or could not do better, for half- 
way round the course and he was still following ; at the 
second goal even still no change ! 

And now, to make the turn, Messala began to draw in his 
left-hand steeds, an act which necessarily slackened their 
speed. His spirit was high ; more than one altar was richer 
of his vows; the Roman genius was still president. On 
the three pillars only six hundred feet away were fame, in- 
crease of fortune, promotions, and a triumph ineffably sweet- 
ened by hate, all in store for him ! That moment Malluch, 
in the gallery, saw Ben-Hur lean forward over his Arabs, 
and give them the reins. Out flew the many-folded lash in 
his hand ; over the backs of the startled steeds it writhed 
and hissed, and hissed and writhed again and agam ; and 
though it fell not, there were both sting and menace in its 
quick report; and as the man passed thus from quiet to 
resistless action, his face suffused, his eyes gleaming, along 
the reins he seemed to flash his will ; and instantly not one, 
bat the four as one, answered with a leap that landed them 
MloDgaide the Roman's cax. Messala, on the perilous edge 



BEN.HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 369 

of the goal, heard, but dared not look to see what the awak- 
ening portended. From the people he received no sign. 
Above the noises of the race there was but one voice, and 
that was Ben-Hur's. In the old Aramaic, as the sheik him- 
self, he called to the Arabs, 

" On, Atair ! On, Rigel ! What, Antares I dost thou lin- 
ger now ? Good horse — oho, Aldebaran ! I hear them 
singing in the tents. I hear the children singing and the 
women — singing of the stars, of Atair, Antares, Kigel, Aldeb- 
aran, victory I — and the song will never end. Well done ! 
Home to-morrow, under the black tent — ^home I On, An- 
tares ! The tribe is waiting for us, and the master is wait- 
ing ! 'Tis done ! 'tis done I Ha, ha ! We have overthrown 
the proud. The hand that smote us is in the dust. Ours 
the glory I Ha, ha ! — steady ! The work is done — soho ! 
Rest !" 

There had never been anything of the kind more simple ; 
seldom anything so instantaneous. 

At the moment chosen for the dash, Messala was moving 
in a circle round the goal. To pass him, Ben-Hur had to 
cross the track, and good strategy required the movement 
to be in a forward direction ; that is, on a like circle limit- 
ed to the least possible increase. The thousands on the 
benches understood it all : they saw the signal given — the 
magnificent response ; the four close outside Messala's outer 
wheel ; Ben-Hur's inner wheel behind the other's car — all 
this they saw. Then they heard a crash loud enough to 
send a thrill through the Circus, and, quicker than thought, 
out over the course a spray of shining white and yellow 
flinders flew. Down on its right side toppled the bed of 
the Roman's chariot. There was a rebound as of the axle 
hitting the hard earth ; another and another ; then the car 
went to pieces; and Messala, entangled in the reins, pitched 
forward headlong. 

To increase the horror of the sight by making death cer- 
tain, the Sidonian, who had the wall next behind, could not 
stop or turn out. Into the wreck full speed he drove ; then 
over the Roman, and into the latter's four, all mad with fear. 
Presently, out of the turmoil, the fighting of horses, the re- 
sound of blows, the murky cloud of dust and «asA^\ia 
24 



370 BENHUR; A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

crawled, in time to see the Corintliian and Byzantine go on 
down the coarse after Ben-Hur, who had not been an in- 
stant delayed. 

The people arose, and leaped upon the benches, and 
shouted and screamed. Those who looked that way caaght 
glimpses of Messala, now under the trampling of the fours, 
now under the abandoned cars. He was still ; they thought 
him dead ; but far the greater number followed Ben-Hur in 
his career. They had not seen the cunning touch of the 
reins by which, turning a little to the left, he caught Messala's 
wheel with the iron-shod point of his axle, and crushed it ; 
but they had seen the transformation of the man, and them- 
selves felt the heat and glow of his spirit, the heroic resolu- 
tion, the maddening energy of action with which, by look, 
word, and gesture, he so suddenly inspired his Arabs. And 
such running ! It was rather the long leaping of lions in 
harness ; but for the lumbering chariot, it seemed the four 
were flying. When the Byzantine and Corinthian were 
half-way down the course, Ben-Hur turned the first goal. 

And the race was won ! 

The consul arose; the people shouted themselves hoarse; 
the editor came down from his seat, and crowned the victors. 

The fortunate man among the boxers was a low-browed, 
yellow-haired Saxon, of such brutalized face as to attract a 
second look from Ben-Hur, who recognized a teacher with 
whom he himself had been a favorite at Rome. From him 
the young Jew looked up and beheld Simonides and his 
party on the balcony. They waved their hands to him. 
Esther kept her seat ; but Iras arose, and gave him a smile 
and a wave of her fan — favors not the less intoxicating to 
him because we know, reader, they would have fallen to 
Messala had he been the victor. 

The procession was then formed, and, midst the shouting 
of the multitude which had had its will, passed out of the 
Gate of Triumph. 

And the day was over. 



BENHUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 372 



Chapter XV. 

Bkn-Hur tarried across the river with Uderim ; for at 
midnight, as previously determined, they would take the 
road which the caravan, then thirty hours out, had pursued. 

The sheik was happy ; his offers of gifts had been royal ; 
but Ben-Hur had refused everything, insisting that he was 
satisfied with the humiliation of his enemy. The generous 
dispute was long continued. 

** Think," the sheik would say, " what thou hast done for 
me. In every black tent down to the Akaba and to the ocean, 
and across to the Euphrates, and beyond to the sea of the 
Scythians, the renown of my Mira and her children will go ; 
and they who sing of them will magnify me, and forget 
that I am in the wane of life ; and all the spears now mas- 
terless will come to me, and my sword-hands multiply past 
counting. Thou dost not know what it is to have sway of 
the desert such as will now be mine. I tell thee it will bring 
tribute incalculable from commerce, and immunity from 
kings. Ay, by the sword of Solomon ! doth my messenger 
seek favor for me of Csesar, that will he get. Yet nothing 
—nothing?" 

And Ben-Hur would answer, 

** Nay, sheik, have I not thy hand and heart ? Let thy 
increase of power and influence inure to the King who 
comes. Who shall say it was not allowed thee for him ? 
In the work I am going to, I may have great need. Say- 
ing no now will leave me to ask of thee with better grace 
hereafter." 

In the midst of a controversy of the kind, two messen- 
gers arrived — Malluch and one unknown. The former was 
admitted first. 

The good fellow did not attempt to hide his joy over the 
event of the day. 

" But, coming to that with which I am charged," he said, 
'* the master Simonides sends me to say tbat^xr^QTi^^ ^-^ 



872 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

journment of the games, some of the Roman faction made 
haste to protest against payment of the money prize." 

Bderim started up, crying, in his shrillest tones, 

** By the splendor of God ! the East shall decide wheth- 
er the race was fairly won." 

*' Nay, good sheik," said Malluch, '^ the editor has paid 
the money." 

" 'Tis well" 

'^ When they said Ben-Hur struck Messala^s wheel, the ed- 
itor laughed, and reminded them of the blow the Arabs had 
at the turn of the goal." 

" And what of the Athenian ?" 

" He is dead." 

" Dead !" cried Ben-Hur. 

" Dead !" echoed Dderim. " What fortune these Roman 
monsters have ! Messala escaped ?" 

'^Escaped — yes, O sheik, with life; but it shall be a 
burden to him« The physicians say he will live, but never 
walk again." 

Ben-Hur looked silently up to heaven. He had a vision 
of Messala, chair-bound like Simonides, and, like him, going 
abroad on the shoulders of servants. The good man had 
abode well; but what would this one with his pride and 
ambition ? 

'' Simonides bade me say, further," Malluch continued, 
'^ Sanballat is having trouble. Drusus, and those who sign- 
ed with him, referred the question of paying the ^ve talents 
they lost to the Consul Maxentius, and he has referred it to 
Cffisar. Messala also refused his losses, and Sanballat, in im- 
itation of Drusus, went to the consul, where the matter is 
still in advisement. The better Romans say the protestants 
shall not be excused ; and all the adverse factions join with 
them. The city rings with the scandal." 

" What says Simonides ?" asked Ben-Hur. 

'^ The master laughs, and is well pleased. If the Roman 
pays, he is ruined; if he refuses to pay, he is dishonored. 
The imperial policy will decide the matter. To offend the 
East would be a bad beginning with the Parthians ; to of- 
fend Sheik Bderim would be to antagonize the Desert, over 
which lie all Maxentius's lines of operation. Wherefore 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 373 

Simonides bade me tell you to have no disquiet; Messala 
will pay." 

Ilderim was at once restored to his good-humor. 

" Let us be off now," he said, rubbing his hands. " The 
business will do well with Simonides. The glory is ours. I 
will order the horses." 

** Stay," said Malluch. " I left a messenger outside. Will 
you see him ?" , 

** By the splendor of God I I forgot him." 

Malluch retired, and was succeeded by a lad of gentle 
manners and delicate appearance, who knelt upon one knee, 
and said, winningly, " Iras, the daughter of Balthasar, well 
known to good Sheik Ilderim, hath intrusted me with a 
message to the sheik, who, she saith, will do her great favor 
so he receive her congratulations on account of the victory 
of his four." 

" The daughter of my friend is kind," said Ilderim, with 
sparkling eyes. " Do thou give her this jewel, in sign of 
the pleasure I have from her message." 

He took a ring from his finger as he spoke. 

" I will as thou sayest, sheik," the lad replied, and con- 
tinued, " The daughter of the Egyptian charged me further. 
She prays the good Sheik Ilderim to send word to the 
youth Ben-Hur that her father hath taken residence for a 
time in the palace of Idernee, where she will receive the 
youth after the fourth hour to-morrow. And if, with her 
congratulations, Sheik Ilderim will accept her gratitude for 
this other favor done, she will be ever so pleased." 

The sheik looked at Ben-Hur, whose face was suffused 
with pleasure. 

" What will you ?" he asked. 

" By your leave, sheik, I will see the fair Egyptian." 

Ilderim laughed, and said, ^^ Shall not a man enjoy his 
youth ?" 

Then Ben-Hur answered the messenger. 

" Say to her who sent you that I, Ben-Hur, will see her 
at the palace of Idernee, wherever that may be, to-morrow 
at noon." 

The lad arose, and, with silent salute, departed. 

At midnight Ilderim took the road, having arranged to 



374 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

leave a horse and a guide for Ben-Hur, who was to follow 
him. 



Chapter XVI. 

OoiKO next day to fill his appointment with Iras, Ben- 
Hur turned from the Omphalus, which was in the heart of 
the city, into the Colonnade of Herod, and came shortly to 
the palace of Idemee. 

From the street he passed first into a vestibule, on the 
sides of which were stairways under cover, leading up to a 
portico. Winged lions sat by the stairs; in the middle 
there was a gigantic ibis spouting water over the floor; the 
lions, ibis, walls, and floor were reminders of the Egyptians : 
everything, even the balustrading of the stairs, was of 
massive gray stone. 

Above the vestibule, and covering the landing of the 
steps, arose the portico, a pillared grace, so light, so exqui- 
sitely proportioned, it was at that period hardly possible 
of conception except by a Greek. Of marble snowy white, 
its effect was that of a lily dropped carelessly upon a great 
bare rock. 

Ben-Hur paused in the shade of the portico to admire its 
tracery and finish, and the purity of its marble; then he 
passed on into the palace. Ample folding-doors stood open 
to receive him. The passage into which he first entered 
was high, but somewhat narrow ; red tiling formed the floor, 
and the walls were tinted to correspond. Yet this plain- 
ness was a warning of something beautiful to come. 

He moved on slowly, all his faculties in repose. Present- 
ly he would be in the presence of Iras ; she was waiting for 
him ; waiting with song and story and badinage, sparkling, 
fanciful, capricious — with smiles which glorified her glance, 
and glances which lent voluptuous suggestion to her whisper. 
She had sent for him the evening of the boat-ride on the 
lake in the Orchard of Palms ; she had sent for him now ; 
and he was going to her in the beautiful palace of Idemee. 
He was happy and dreamful rather than thoughtless. 
The passage brought liVm to a closed door, in front of 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 375 

which he paused ; and, as he did so, the broad leaves began 
to open of themselves, without creak or sound of lock or 
latch, or touch of foot or finger. The singularity was lost 
in the view that broke upon him. 

Standing in the shade of the dull passage, and looking 
through the doorway, he beheld the atrium of a Koman 
house, roomy and rich to a fabulous degree of magnificence. 

Howi large the chamber was cannot be stated, because of 
the deceit there is in exact proportions; its depth was 
vista-like, something never to be said of an equal interior. 
When he stopped to make survey, and looked down upon 
the floor, he was standing upon the breast of a Leda, repre- 
sented as caressing a swan ; and, looking farther, he saw the 
whole floor was similarly laid in mosaic pictures of mytho- 
logical subjects. And there were stools and chairs, each a 
separate design, and a work of art exquisitely composed, 
and tables much carven, and here and there couches which 
were invitations of themselves. The articles of furniture, 
which stood out from the walls, were duplicated on the floor 
distinctly as if they floated upon unrippled water; even the 
panelling of the walls, the figures upon them in painting and 
bass-relief, and the fresco of the ceiling were reflected on the 
floor. The ceiling curved up towards the centre, where 
there was an opening through which the sunlight poured 
without hindrance, and the sky, ever so blue, seemed in 
hand-reach ; the impluvium under the opening was guarded 
by bronzed rails ; the gilded pillars supporting the roof at 
the edges of the opening shone like flame where the sun 
struck them, and their reflections beneath seemed to stretch 
to infinite depth. And there were candelabra quaint and 
curious, and statuary and vases; the whole making an in- 
terior that would have befitted well the house on the Pala- 
tine Hill which Cicero bought of Crassus, or that other, 
yet more famous for extravagance, the Tusculan villa of 
Scaurus. 

Still in his dreamful mood, Ben-Hur sauntered about, 
charmed by all he beheld, and waiting. He did not mind 
0, little delay ; when Iras was ready, she would come or send 
a servant. In every well-regulated Roman house the atrium 
was the reception chamber for visitors. 



876 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

Twice, thrice, he made the round. As often he stood 
under the opening in the roof, and pondered the sky and 
its azure depth ; then, leaning against a pillar, he studied 
the distribution of light and shade, and its effects ; here a 
veil diminishing objects, there a brilliance exaggerating 
others ; yet nobody came. Time, or rather the passage of 
time, began at length to impress itself upon him, and he 
wondered why Iras stayed so long. Again he traced out 
the figures upon the floor, but not with the satisfaction the 
first inspection gave him. He paused often to listen : direct- 
ly impatience blew a little fevered breath upon his spirit ; 
next time it blew stronger and hotter ; and at last he woke 
to a consciousness of the silence which held the house in 
thrall, and the thought of it made him uneasy and distrust- 
ful. Still he put the feeling off with a smile and a promise. 
** Oh, she is giving the last touch to her eyelids, or she is ar- 
ranging a chaplet for me ; she will come presently, more 
beautiful of the delay !" He sat down then to admire a 
candelabrum — a bronze plinth on rollers, filigree on the 
sides and edges ; the post at one end, and on the end oppo- 
site it an altar and a female celebrant; the lamp -rests 
swinging by delicate chains from the extremities of droop- 
ing palm-branches; altogether a wonder in its way. But 
the silence would obtrude itself: he listened even as he 
looked at the pretty object — he listened, but there was not 
a sound ; the palace was still as a tomb. 

There might be a mistake. No, the messenger bad come 
from the Egyptian, and this was the palace of Idemee. 
Then he remembered how mysteriously the door had open- 
ed, so soundlessly, so of itself. He would see ! 

He went to the same door. Though he walked ever so 
lightly, the sound of his stepping was loud and harsh, and 
he shrank from it. He was getting nervous. The cum- 
brous Roman lock resisted his first effort to raise it; and 
the second — the blood chilled in his cheeks — he wrenched 
with all his might : in vain — ^the door was not even shaken. 
A sense of danger seized him, and for a moment he stood 
irresolute. 

Who in Antioch had the motive to do him harm ? 

Messala I 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 377 

And this palace of Ideniee? He had seen Egypt in the 
vestibule, Athens in the snowy portico; but here, in the 
atrium, was Rome ; everything about him betrayed Boman 
ownership. True, the site was on the great thoroughfare 
of the city, a very public place in which to do him violence ; 
but for that reason it was more accordant with the audacious 
genius of his enemy. The atrium underwent a change; 
with all its elegance and beauty, it was no more than a trap. 
Apprehension always paints in black. 

The idea irritated Ben-Hur. 

There were many doors on the right and left of the 
atrium, leading, doubtless, to sleeping- chambers; he tried 
them, but they were all firmly fastened. Knocking might 
bring response. Ashamed to make outcry, he betook him- 
self to a couch, and, lying down, tried to reflect. 

All too plainly he was a prisoner ; but for what purpose ? 
and by whom ? 

If the work were Messala's ! He sat up, looked about, 
and smiled defiantly. There were weapons in every table. 
But birds had been starved in golden cages ; not so would 
he— ^the couches would serve him as battering-rams ; and he 
was strong, and there was such increase of might in rage 
and despair ! 

Messala himself could not come. He would never walk 
again ; he was a cripple like Simonides ; still he could move 
others. And where were there not others to be moved by 
him ? Ben-Hur arose, and tried the doors again. Once he 
called out ; the room echoed so that he was startled. With 
such calmness as he could assume, he made up his mind to 
wait a time before attempting to break a way out. 

In such a situation the mind has its ebb and flow of dis- 
quiet, with intervals of peace between. At length — how 
long, though, he could not have said — ^he came to the con- 
clusion that the affair was an accident or mistake. The 
palace certainly belonged to somebody ; it must have care 
and keeping : and the keeper would come ; the evening or 
the night would bring him. Patience ! 

So concluding, he waited. 

Half an hour passed — a much longer period to Ben-Hur 
— when the door which had admitted him opened an^ 



378 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

closed noiselessly as before, and without attracting his at- 
tention. 

The moment of the occurrence he was sitting at the 
farther end of the room. A footstep startled him. 

" At last she has come I" he thought, with a throb of 
relief and pleasure, and arose. 

The step was heavy, and accompanied with the gride and 
clang of coarse sandds. The gilded pillars were between 
him and the door ; he advanced quietly, and leaned against 
one of them. Presently he heard voices — the voices of men 
—one of them rough and guttural. What was said he could 
not understand, as the language was not of the East or South 
of Europe. 

After a general survey of the room, the strangers crossed 
to their left, and were brought into Ben-Hur's view — two 
men, one very stout, both tall, and both in short tunics. 
They had not the air of masters of the house or domestics. 
Everjrthing they saw appeared wonderful to them ; every- 
thing they stopped to examine they touched. They were 
vulgarians. The atrium seemed profaned by their presence. 
At the same time, their leisurely manner and the assurance 
with which they proceeded pointed to some right or busi- 
ness ; if business, with whom ? 

With much jargon they sauntered this way and that, all 
the time gradually approaching the pillar by which Ben-Hur 
was standing. Off a little way, where a slanted gleam of the 
sun fell with a glare upon the mosaic of the floor, there was 
a statue which attracted their notice. In examining it, they 
stopped in the light. 

The mysteiy surrounding his own presence in the palace 
tended, as we have seen, to make Ben-Hur nervous ; so now, 
when in the tall stout stranger he recognized the Northman 
whom he had known in Rome, and seen crowned only the 
day before in the Circus as the winning pugilist ; when he 
saw the man's face, scarred with the wounds of many bat- 
tles, and imbruted by ferocious passions; when he sur- 
veyed the fellow's naked limbs, very marvels of exercise 
and training, and his shoulders of Herculean breadth, a 
thought of personal danger started a chill along every vein. 
A Bare instinct warned him that the opportunity for murder 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 379 

was too perfect to have come by chance ; and here now 
were the myrmidons, and their business was with him. He 
turaed an anxious eye upon the Northman's comrade — 
young, black-eyed, black-haired, and altogether Jewish in 
appearance ; he observed, also, that both the men were in 
costume exactly such as professionals of their class were in 
the habit of wearing in the arena. Putting the several cir- 
cumstances together, Ben-Hur could not be longer in doubt : 
he had been lured into the palace with design. Out of reach 
of aid, in this splendid privacy, he was to die ! 

At a loss what to do, he gazed from man to man, while 
there was enacted within him that miracle of mind by which 
life is passed before us in awful detail, to be looked at by 
ourselves as if it were another's; and from the evolvement, 
from a hidden depth, cast up, as it were, by a hidden hand, he 
was given to see that he had entered upon a new life, differ- 
ent from the old one in this : whereas, in that, he had been 
the victim of violences done to him, henceforth he was to be 
the aggressor. Only yesterday he had found his first victim I 
To the purely Christian nature the presentation would have 
brought the weakness of remorse. Not so with Ben-Hur ; 
his spirit had its emotions from the teachings of the first 
lawgiver, not the last and greatest one. He had dealt pun- 
ishment, not wrong, to Messala. By permission of the Lord, 
he had triumphed; and he derived faith from the circum- 
stance — ^faith the source of all rational strength, especially 
strength in peril. 

Nor did the influence stop there. The new life was made 
appear to him a mission just begun, and holy as the King to 
come was holy, and certain as the coming of the King was 
certain — a mission in which force was lawful if only because 
it was unavoidable. Should he, on the very threshold of 
such an errand, be afraid ? 

He undid the sash around his waist, and, baring his head 
and casting off his white Jewish gown, stood forth in an 
undertunic not unlike those of the enemy, and was ready, 
body and mind. Folding his arms, he placed his back 
against the pillar, and calmly waited. 

The examination of the statue was brief. Directly the 
Northman turned, and said something in the unknowa 



380 BEN.HUB: A TAI£ OF THE CHRIST. 

tongne ; then both looked at Ben-Hur. A few more words, 
and they advanced towards him. 

" Who are you ?" he asked, in Latin. 

The Northman fetched a smile which did not relieve his 
face of its brutalism, and answered, 

" Barbarians." 

" This is the palace of Idemee. Whom seek you ? Stand 
and answer." 

The words were spoken with earnestness. The strangers 
stopped ; and in his turn the Northman asked, " Who are 
you?" 

" A Roman." 

The giant laid his head back upon his shoulders. 

" Ha, ha, ha ! I have heard how a god once came from 
a cow licking a salted stone ; but not even a god can make 
a Roman of a Jew." 

The laugh over, he spoke to his companion again, and 
they moved nearer. 

" Hold !" said Ben-Hur, quitting the pillar. " One word." 

They stopped again. 

" A word 1" replied the Saxon, folding his immense arms 
across his breast, and relaxing the menace beginning to 
blacken his face. " A word ! Speak." 

" You are Thord the Northman." 

The giant opened his blue eyes. 

"You were lanista in Rome." 

Thord nodded. 

" I was your scholar." 

" No," said Thord, shaking his head. " By the beard of 
Irmin, I had never a Jew to make a fighting-man of." 

" But I will prove my saying." 

" How ?" 

" You came here to kill me." 

" That is true." 

" Then let this man fight me singly, and I will make the 
proof on his body." 

A gleam of humor shone in the Northman's face. He 
spoke to his companion, who made answer ; then he replied 
with the naivete of a diverted child, 

" Wait tiU I say begin." 



BEN.HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 381 

By repeated touches of his foot, he pushed a couch out 
on the floor, and proceeded leisurely to stretch his burly 
form upon it ; when perfectly at ease, he said, simply, " Now 
begin." 

Without ado, Ben-Hur walked to his antagonist. 

" Defend thyself," he said. 

The man, nothing loath, put up his hands. 

As the two thus confronted each other in approved posi- 
tion, there was no discernible inequality between them ; on 
the contrary, they were as like as brothers. To the stranger's 
confident smile, Ben-Hur opposed an earnestness which, bad 
his skill been known, would have been accepted fair warning 
of danger. Both knew the combat was to be mortal. 

Ben-Hur feinted with his right hand. The stranger 
warded, slightly advancing his left arm. Ere he could re- 
turn to guard, Ben-Hur caught him by the wrist in a grip 
which years at the oar had made terrible as a vise. The 
surprise was complete, and no time given. To throw him- 
self forward ; to push the arm across the man's throat and 
over his right shoulder, and turn him left side front ; to 
strike surely with the ready left hand ; to strike the bare 
neck under the ear — were but petty divisions of the same 
act. No need of a second blow. The myrmidon fell heavi- 
ly, and without a cry, and lay still. 

Ben-Hur turned to Thord. 

" Ha I What I By the beard of Irmin !" the latter cried, 
in astonishment, rising to a sitting posture. Then he laughed. 

" Ha, ha, ha ! I could not have done it better myself." 

He viewed Ben-Hur coolly from head to foot, and, rising, 
faced him with undisguised admiration. 

" It was my trick — the trick I have practised for ten years 
in the schools of Rome. You are not a Jew. Who are 
you?" 

" You knew Arrius the duumvir." 

" Quintus Arrius ? Yes, he was my patron." 

" He had a son." 

" Yes," said Thord, his battered features lighting dully, 
" I knew the boy ; he would have made a king gladiator. 
CsBsar offered him his patronage. I taught him the very 
trick you played on this one here — a trick impossible ex- 



382 BEN-flUB: A TALE OF THE CHBIST. 

cept to a hand and arm like mine. It has won me many a 
crown." 

" I am that son of Amus." 

Thord drew nearer, and viewed him carefully ; then his 
eyes brightened with genuine pleasure, and, laughing, he held 
out his hand. 

" Ha, ha, ha ! He told me I would find a Jew here — a 
Jew — a dog of a Jew — killing whom was serving the gods." 

" Who told you so ?" asked Ben-Hur, taking the hand. 

" He — Messala — ha, ha, ha !" 

" When, Thord ?" 

** Last night." 

" I thought he was hurt." 

" He will never walk again. On his bed he told me be- 
tween groans." 

A very vivid portrayal of hate in a few words ; and Ben- 
Hur saw that the Roman, if he lived, would still be capable 
and dangerous, and follow him unrelentingly. Revenge re- 
mained to sweeten the ruined life ; therefore the clinging to 
fortune lost in the wager with Sanballat Ben-Hur ran the 
ground over, with a distinct foresight of the many ways in 
which it would be possible for his enemy to interfere with 
him in the work he had undertaken for the King who was 
coming. Why not he resort to the Roman's methods ? The 
man hired to kill him could be hired to strike back. It was 
in his power to offer higher wages. The temptation was 
strong ; and, half yielding, he chanced to look down at his 
late antagonist lying still, with white upturned face, so like 
himself. A light came to him, and he asked, " Thord, what 
was Messala to give you for killing me ?" 

" A thousand sestertii." 

" You shall have them yet ; and so you do now what I 
tell you, I will add three thousand more to the sum." 

The giant reflected aloud, 

" I won five thousand yesterday ; from the Roman one — 
six. Give me four, good Arrius — four more — and I will 
stand firm for you, though old Thor, my namesake, strike 
me with his hammer. Make it four, and I will kill the ly- 
ing patrician, if you say so. I have only to cover his mouth 
with my hand — thus." 



BEN-HUB: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. ' 883 

He illastrated the process by clapping his hand over his 
own mouth. 

'* I see," said Ben-Hur ; " ten thousand sestertii is a fort- 
une. It will enable you to return to Rome, and open a 
wine-shop near the Great Circus, and live as becomes the 
first of the lanistoey 

The very scars on the giant's face glowed afresh with 
the pleasure the picture gave him. 

*'I will make it four thousand," Ben-Hur continued; 
" and in what you shall do for the money there will be no 
blood on your hands, Thord. Hear me now. Did not your 
friend here look like me?" 

** I would have said he was an apple from the same tree." 

" Well, if I put on his tunic, and dress him in these 
clothes of mine, and you and I go away together, leaving 
him here, can you not get your sestertii from Messala all 
the same ? You have only to make him believe it me that 
is dead." 

Thord laughed till the tears ran into his mouth., 

" Ha, ha, ha I Ten thousand sestertii were never won so 
easily. And a wine-shop by the Great Circus ! — all for a lie 
without blood in it I Ha, ha, ha ! Give me thy hand, O 
son of Arrius. Get on now, and — ^ha, ha, ha ! — if ever you 
come to Rome, fail not to ask for the wine-shop of Thord 
the Northman. By the beard of Irmin, I will give you the 
best, though I borrow it from CsBsar !" 

They shook hands again; after which the exchange of 
clothes was effected. It was arranged then that a messen- 
ger should go at night to Thord's lodging-place with the 
four thousand sestertii. When they were done, the giant 
knocked at the front door ; it opened to him ; and, passing out 
of the atrium, he led Ben-Hur into a room adjoining, where 
the latter completed his attire from the coarse garments of 
the dead pugilist. They separated directly in the Omphalus. 

" Fail not, O son of Arrius, fail not the wine-shop near 
the Great Circus! Ha, ha, ha! By the beard of Irmin, 
there was never fortune gained so cheap. The gods keep 
you !" 

Upon leaving the atrium, Ben-Hur gave a last look at the 
myrmidon as he lay in the Jewish vestments, and was satis- 



384 B£N.HUB: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

fied. The likeness was striking. If Thord kept faith, the 

cheat was a secret to endure forever. 

****** 

At nighty in the house of Simonides, Ben-Hur told the 
good man all that had taken place in the palace of Idemee ; 
and it was agreed that, after a few days, public inquiry 
should be set afloat for the discovery of the whereabouts 
of the son of Arrius. Eventually the matter was to be car- 
ried boldly to Maxentius ; then, if the mystery came not out, it 
was concluded that Messala and Gratus would be at rest and 
happy, and Ben-Hur free to betake himself to Jerusalem, to 
make search for his lost people. 

At the leave-taking, Simonides sat in his chair out on the 
terrace overlooking the river, and gave his farewell and the 
peace of the Lord with the impressment of a father. Esther 
went with the young man to the head of the steps. 

" If I find my mother, Esther, thou shalt go to her at Je- 
rusalem, and be a sister to Tirzah.^' 

And with the words he kissed her. 

Was it only a kiss of peace ? 

He crossed the river next to the late quarters of Uderim, 
where he found the Arab who was to serve him as guide. 
The horses were brought out 

" This one is thine," said the Arab. 

Ben-Hur looked, and, lo ! it was Aldebaran, the swiftest 
and brightest of the sons of Mira, and, next to Sirius, the 
beloved of the sheik; and he knew the old man's heart 
came to him along with the gift. 

The corpse in the atrium was taken up and buried by 
night ; and, as part of Messala's plan, a courier was sent o£E 
to Gratus to make him at rest by the announcement of Ben- 
Hur's death — this time past question. 

Ere long a wine-shop was opened near the Circus Maxi- 
mus, with inscription over the door : 

Thord the Northman. 



BEN-HUB: A TALE OF THE OHBIST. 385 



BOOK SIXTH. 



'*Is that a Death ? and are there two ? 
Is Death that woman's mate ? 

^w ^p 1^ ^F ^P 

Her skin was as white as leprosy, 
The Nightmare Life-in-Death was she, 
Who thicks man's blood with cold." 

COLERIDOB. 



Chapter I. 

Our story moves forward now thirty days from the 
night Ben-Hur left Antioch to go out with Sheik Ilderim 
into the desert. 

A great change has befallen — ^great at least as respects 
the fortunes of our hero. Valerius Grains has been suc- 
ceeded by Pontius Pilate ! 

The removal, it may be remarked, cost Simonides ex- 
actly five talents Roman money in hand paid to Sejanus, 
who was then in height of power as imperial favorite ; the 
object being to help Ben-Hur, by lessening his exposure 
while in and about Jerusalem attempting discovery of his 
people. To such pious use the faithful servant put the 
winnings from Drusus and his associates ; all of whom, hav- 
ing paid their wagers, became at once and naturally the en- 
emies of Messala^ whose repudiation was yet an unsettled 
question in Rome. 

Brief as the time was, already the Jews knew the change 
of rulers was not for the better. 

The cohorts sent to relieve the garrison of Antonia made 
their entry into the city by night ; next morning the first 
sight that greeted the people resident in the neighborhood 
25 



386 BEN.HUE: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

was the walls of the old Tower decorated with military en- 
signs, which unfortunately consisted of busts of the em- 
peror mixed with eagles and globes. A multitude, in pas- 
sion, marched to Caesarea, where Pilate was lingering, and 
implored him to remove the detested images. Five days 
and nights they beset his palace gates ; at last he appointed 
a meeting with them in the Circus. When they were bb- 
sembled, he encircled them with soldiers ; instead of resist- 
ing, they offered him their lives, and conquered. He re- 
called the images and ensigns to Caesarea, where Gratus, 
with more consideration, had kept such abominations housed 
during the eleven years of his reign. 

The worst of men do once in a while vary their wicked- 
nesses by good acts; so with Pilate. He ordered an in- 
spection of all the prisons in Judea, and a return of the 
names of the persons in custody, with a statement of the 
crimes for which they had been committed. Doubtless, the 
motive was the one so common with officials just installed 
— dread of entailed responsibility ; the people, however, in 
thought of the good which might come of the measure, 
gave him credit, and, for a period, were comforted. The 
revelations were astonishing. Hundreds of persons were 
released against whom there were no accusations; many 
others came to light who had long been accounted dead ; 
yet more amazing, there was opening of dungeons not 
merely unknown at the time by the people, but actually for- 
gotten by the prison authorities. With one instance of the 
latter kind we have now to deal ; and, strange to say, it oc- 
curred in Jerusalem. 

The Tower of Antonia, which will be remembered as oc- 
cupying two thirds of the sacred area on Mount Moriah, 
was originally a castle built by the Macedonians. After- 
wards, John Hyrcanus erected the castle into a fortress for 
the defence of the Temple, and in his day it was considered 
impregnable to assault; but when Herod came with his 
bolder genius, he strengthened its walls and extended them, 
leaving a vast pile which included every appurtenance nec- 
essary for the stronghold he intended it to be forever; 
such as offices, barracks, armories, magazines, cisterns, and 
last, though not least, pn&0Ti% of all grades. He levelled the 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 387 

solid rock, and tapped it with deep excavations, and built 
over them ; connecting the whole great mass with the Tem- 
ple by a beautiful colonnade, from the roof of which one 
could look down over the courts of the sacred structure. 
In such condition the Tower fell at last out of his hands 
into those of the Romans, fvho were quick to see its strength 
and advantages, and convert it to uses becoming such mas- 
ters. All through the administration of Gratus it had been 
a garrisoned citadel and underground prison terrible to rev- 
olutionists. Woe when the cohorts poured from its gates 
to suppress disorder ! Woe not less when a Jew passed the 
same gates going in under arrest ! 

With this explanation, we hasten to our story. 
* * * * * * 

The order of the new procurator requiring a report of 
the persons in custody was received at the Tower of Anto- 
nia, and promptly executed ; and two days have gone since 
the last unfortunate was brought up for examination. The 
tabulated statement, ready for forwarding, lies on the table 
of the tribune in command ; in five minutes more it will be on 
the way to Pilate, sojourning in the palace up on Mount Zion. 

The tribune's office is spacious and cool, and furnished 
in a style suitable to the dignity of the commandant of a 
post in every respect so important. Looking in upon him 
about the seventh hour of the day, the officer appears weary 
and impatient ; when the report is despatched, he will to 
the roof of the colonnade for air and exercise, and the 
amusement to be had watching the Jews over in the courts 
of the Temple. His subordinates and clerks share his im- 
patience. 

In the spell of waiting a man appeared in a doorway 
leading to an adjoining apartment. He rattled a bunch of 
keys, each heavy as a hammer, and at once attracted the 
chief's attention. 

" Ah, Gesius ! come in," the tribune said. 

As the new-comer approached the table behind which 
the chief sat in an easy-chair, everybody present looked at 
hira, and, observing a certain expression of alarm and mor- 
tification on his face, became silent that they migbt hear 
what he had to say. 



388 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

"O tribune!" he began, bending low, "I fear to tell 
what now I bring you." 

" Another mistake — ha, Gesius ?" 

" If I could persuade myself it is but a mistake, I would 
not be afraid." 

" A crime then — or, worse, a breach of duty. Thou mayst 
laugh at Caesar, or curse the gods, and live ; but if the of- 
fence be to the eagles— ah, thou knowest, Gesius — go on !" 

"It is now about eight years since Valerius Gratus se- 
lected me to be keeper of prisoners here in the Tower," said 
the man, deliberately. " I remember the morning I entered 
upon the duties of my oflSce. There had been a riot the 
day before, and fighting in the streets. We slew many 
Jews, and suffered on our side. The affair came, it was 
said, of an attempt to assassinate Gratus, who had been 
knocked from his horse by a tile thrown from a roof. I 
found him sitting where you now sit, O tribune, his head 
swathed in bandages. He told me of my selection, and 
gave me these keys, numbered to correspond with the num- 
bers of the cells ; they were the badges of my office, he 
said, and not to be parted with. There was a roll of parch- 
ment on the table. Calling me to him, he opened the roll. 

* Here are maps of the cells,' said he. There were three of 
them. * This one,' he went on, ' shows the arrangement of 
the upper floor ; this second one gives you the second floor ; 
and this last is of the lower floor. I give them to you in 
trust.' I took them from his hand, and he said, further, 

* Now you have the keys and the maps ; go immediately, 
and acquaint yourself with the whole arrangement; visit 
each cell, and see to its condition. When anything is need- 
ed for the security of a prisoner, order it according to your 
judgment, for you are the master under me, and no other.' 

" I saluted him, and turned to go away ; he called me 
back. * Ah, I forgot,' he said. * Give me the map of the 
third floor.' I gave it to him, and he spread it upon the 
table. * Here, Gesius,' he said, * see this cell.' He laid his 
finger on the one numbered V. * There are three men con- 
fined in that cell, desperate characters, who by some means 
got hold of a state secret, and suffer for their curiosity, 
wbicb^ — he looked at me ^.e-veielY — *in such matters is 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 



389 



worse than a crime. Accordingly, they are blind and tongue- 
less, and are placed there for life. They shall have nothing 
but food and drink, to be given them through a hole, which 
you will find in the wall covered by a slide. Do you hear, 
Gesius V I made him answer. * It is well,' he continued. 
* One thing more which you shall not forget, or* — he look- 
ed at me threateningly — 'The door of their cell — cell 
number V. on the same floor — ^this one, Gesius' — he put his 
finger on the particular cell to impress my memory — ' shall 
never be opened for any purpose, neither to let one in nor 
out, not even yourself.' ' But if they die ?' I asked. * If 
they die,' he said, * the cell shall be their tomb. They were 
put there to die, and be lost. The cell is leprous. Do you 
understand ?' With that he let me go." 

Gesius stopped, and from the breast of his tunic drew 
three parchments, all much yellowed by time and use ; se- 
lecting one of them, he spread it upon the table before the 
tribune, saying, simply, " This is the lower floor." 

The whole company looked at — 

THE MAP. 



Passage 




rv 



in 



■4^ 



•**• 



" This is exactly, tribune, as I had it from Gratus. See, 
there is cell number V.," said Gesius. 

" I see," the tribune replied. " Go on now. The cell 
was leprous, he said." 

" I would like to ask you a question," remarked the keep- 
er, modestly. 

The tribune assented. 

'' Had I not a right, under the circumstances, to believe 
the map a true one?" 

" What else couldst thou?" 

" Well, it is not a true one." 

The chief looked up surprised. 

" It is not a true one," the keeper repeated. " It shows 
but five cells upon that floor, while there are six." 



390 BEX-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHKIST. 

" Six, 'sayest thou f 

"I will show you the floor as it i&— or as I believe it to 
be." 

Upon a page of his tablets, Gesius drew the following 
diagram, and gave it to the tribune : 






nn I ■ If I ii n n , I 



VI 




"Thou hast done well," said the tribune, examining the 
drawing, and thinking the narrative at an end. " I will have 
the map corrected, or, better, I will have a new one made, 
and given thee. Come for it in the morning." 

So saying, he arose. 

** But hear me further, tribune." 

" To-morrow, Gesius, to-morrow." 

" That which I have yet to tell will not wait." 

The tribune good-naturedly resumed his chair. 

" I will hurry," said the keeper, humbly, " only let me ask 
another question. Had I not a right to believe Gratus in what 
he further told me as to the prisoners in cell number V. ?" 

" Yes, it was thy duty to believe there were three pris- 
oners in the cell — prisoners of state — blind and without 
tongues." 

" Well," said the keeper, " that was not true either." 

" No !" said the tribune, with returning interest. 

" Hear, and judge for yourself, O tribune. As required, 
I visited all the cells, beginning with those on the first floor, 
and ending with those on the lower. The order that the 
door of number V. should not be opened had been respected ; 
through all the eight years food and drink for three men had 
been passed through a hole in the wall. I went to the door 
yesterday, curious to see the wretches who, against all ex- 
pectation, had lived so long. The locks refused the key. 
We pulled a little, and the door fell down, rusted from its 
binges. Going in, I found but one man, old, blind, tongue- 
less, and naked. His Taait itoY^^di \\i ^\xffft\ied mats below 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 39 1 

liis waist. His skin was like the parchment there. He held 
his hands out, and the finger-nails curled and twisted like 
the claws of a bird. I asked him where his companions 
were. He shook his head in denial. Thinking to find the 
others, we searched the cell. The floor was dry ; so were 
the walls. If three men had been shut in there, and two of 
them had died, at least their bones would have endured." 

" Wherefore thou thinkest — " 

"I think, O tribune, there has been but one prisoner 
there in the eight yeare." 

The chief regarded the keeper sharply, and said, " Have 
a care ; thou art more than saying Valerius lied." 

Gesius bowed, but said, " He might have been mistaken." 

" No, he was right," said the tribune, warmly. " By 
thine own statement he was right. Didst thou not say but 
now that for eight years food and drink had been furnished 
three men ?" 

The bystanders approved the shrewdness of their chief ; 
yet Gesius did not seem discomfited. 

"You have but half the story, O tribune. "When you 
have it all, you will agree with me. You know what I did 
with the man : that I sent him to the bath, and had him 
shorn and clothed, and then took him to the gate of the 
Tower, and bade him go free. I washed my hands of him. 
To-day he came back, and was brought to me. By signs 
and tears, he at last made me understand he wished to re- 
turn to his cell, and I so ordered. As they were leading 
him off, he broke away and kissed my feet, and, by piteous 
dumb impl oration, insisted I should go with him ; and I 
went. The mystery of the three men stayed in my mind. 
I was not satisfied about it Now I am glad I yielded to 
his entreaty." 

The whole company at this point became very still. 

" When we were in the cell again, and the prisoner knew 
it, he caught my hand eagerly, and led me to a hole like 
that through which we were accustomed to pass him his 
food. Though large enough to push your helmet through, it 
escaped me yesterday. Still holding my hand, he put his 
face to the hole and gave a beast-like cry. A sound came 
faintly back. I was astonished, and drew him v^v^^vsA 



392 BEN-HUB: A TALE OF THE CHBIST. 

called out, *Ho, here!' At first there was no answer. I 
called again, and received back these words, * Be thou praised, 

Lord P Yet more^ astonishing, tribune, the voice was 
a woman's. And I asked, * Who are you V and had reply, 
*A woman of Israel, entombed here with her daughter. 
Help us quickly, or we die.' I told them to be of cheer, 
and hurried here to know your wilL" 

The tribune arose hastily. 

" Thou wert right, Gesius," he said, " and I see now. The 
map was a lie, and so was the tale of the three men. There 
have been better Romans than Valerius Gratus." 

" Yes," said the keeper. " I gleaned from the prisoner 
that he had regularly given the women of the food and 
drink he had received." 

" It is accounted for," replied the tribune, and observing 
the countenances of his friends, and reflecting how well it 
would be to have witnesses, he added, " Let us rescue the 
women. Come all." 

Gesius was pleased. 

" We will have to pierce the wall," he said. " I found 
where a door had been, but it was filled solidly with stones 
and mortar." 

The tribune stayed to say to a clerk, " Send workmen 
after me with tools. Make haste ; but hold the report, for 

1 see it will have to be corrected." 

In a short time they were gone. 



Chapter II. 

" A WOMAN of Israel, entombed here with her daughter. 
Help us quickly, or we die." 

Such was the reply Gesius, the keeper, had from the cell 
which appears on his amended map as YI. The reader, 
when he observed the answer, knew who the unfortunates 
were, and, doubtless, said to himself, " At last the mother 
of Ben-Hur, and Tirzah, his sister 1" 

And so it was. 

The morning of their seizure, eight years before, they 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 393 

had been carried to the Tower, where Gratus proposed to put 
them out of the way. He had chosen the Tower for the pur- 
pose as more immediately in his own keeping, and cell VI. 
because, first, it could be better lost than any other ; and, 
secondly, it was infected with leprosy ; for these prisoners 
were not merely to be put in a safe place, but in a place to 
die. They were, accordingly, taken down by slaves in the 
night-time, when there were no witnesses of the deed ; then, 
in completion of the savage task, the same slaves walled up 
the door, after which they were themselves separated, and 
sent away never to be heard of more. To save accusation, 
and, in the event of discovery, to leave himself such justi- 
fication as might be allowed in a distinction between the 
infliction of a punishment and the commission of a double 
murder, Gratus preferred sinking his victims where natural 
death was certain, though slow. That they might linger 
along, he selected a convict who had been made blind and 
tongueless, and sank him in the only connecting cell, there 
to serve them with food and drink. Under no circum- 
stances could the poor wretch tell the tale or identify either 
the prisoners or their doomsman. So, with a cunning part- 
ly due to Messala, the Roman, under color of punishing a 
brood of assassins, smoothed a path to confiscation of the 
estate of the Hurs, of which no portion ever reached the 
imperial coffers. 

As the last step in the scheme, Gratus summarily re- 
moved the old keeper of the prisons ; not because he knew 
what had been done — for he did not — but because, know- 
ing the underground floors as he did, it would be next to 
impossible to keep the transaction from him. Then, with 
masterly ingenuity, the procurator had new maps drawn for 
delivery to a new keeper, with the omission, as we have 
seen, of cell VI. The instructions given the latter, taken 
with the omission on the map, accomplished the design — 
the cell and its unhappy tenants were all alike lost. 

What may be thought of the life of the mother and 
daughter during the eight years must have relation to their 
culture and previous habits. Conditions are pleasant or 
grievous to us according to our sensibilities. It is not ex- 
treme to say, if there was a sudden exit of all men from the 



394 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

world, heaven, as prefigured in the Christian idea, would 
not be a heaven to the majority ; on the other hand, neither 
would all suffer equally in the so-called Tophet. Cultiva- 
tion has its balances. As the mind is made intelligent, the 
capacity of the soul for pure enjoyment is proportionally 
increased. Well, therefore, if it be saved ! If lost, how- 
ever, alas that it ever had cultivation ! its capacity for en- 
joyment in the one case is the measure of its capacity to 
suffer in the other. Wherefore repentance must be some- 
thing more than mere remorse for sins ; it comprehends a 
change of nature befitting heaven. 

We repeat, to form an adequate idea of the suffering en- 
dured by the mother of Ben-Hur, the reader must think of 
her spirit and its sensibilities as much as, if not more than, 
of the conditions of the immurement ; the question being, not 
what the conditions were, but how she was affected by them. 
And now we may be permitted to say it was in anticipation 
of this thought that the scene in the summer-house on the 
roof of the family palace was given so fully in the beginning 
of the Second Book of our story. So, too, to be helpful 
when the inquiry should come up, we ventured the elaborate 
description of the palace of the Hurs. 

In other words, let the serene, happy, luxurious life in 
the princely house be recalled and contrasted with this ex- 
istence in the lower dungeon of the Tower of Antonia; 
then if the reader, in his effort to realize the misery of the 
woman, persists in mere reference to conditions physical, he 
cannot go amiss : as he is a lover of his kind, tender of 
heart, he will be melted with much sympathy. But will he 
go further; will he more than sympathize with her; will he 
share her agony of mind and spirit ; will he at least try to 
measure it---let him recall her as she discoursed to her son 
of God and nations and heroes; one moment a philoso- 
pher, the next a teacher, and all the time a mother. 

Would you hurt a man keenest, strike at his self-love ; 
would you hurt a woman worst, aim at her affections. 

With quickened remembrance of these unfortunates — re- 
membrance of them as they were — ^let us go down and see 
them as they are. 

The cell YL was in form as Gesius drew it on his map. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 395 

Of its dimensions but little idea can be had ; enongh that 
it was a roomy, roughened interior, with ledged and broken 
walls and floor. 

In the beginning, the site of the Macedonian Castle was 
separated from the site of the Temple by a narrow but deep 
clrff somewhat in shape of a wedge. The workmen, wish- 
ing to hew out a series of chambers, made their entry in 
the north face of the cleft, and worked in, leaving a ceil- 
ing of the natural stone ; delving farther, they executed the 
cells v., IV., III., II., I., with no connection with number VI. 
except through number V. In like manner, they construct- 
ed the passage and stairs to the floor above. The process 
of the work was precisely that resorted to in carving out 
the Tombs of the Kings, yet to be seen a short distance 
north of Jerusalem ; only when the cutting was done, cell 
VI. was enclosed on its outer side by a wall of prodigious 
stones, in which, for ventilation, narrow apertures were left 
bevelled like modem port-holes. Herod, when he took hold 
of the Temple and Tower, put a facing yet more massive 
upon this outer wall, and shut up all the apertures but one, 
which yet admitted a little vitalizing air, and a ray of light 
not nearly strong enough to redeem the room from darkness. 

Such was cell VL 

Startle not now ! 

The description of the blind and tongueless wretch just 
liberated from cell V. may be accepted to break the horror 
of what is coming. 

The two women are grouped close by the aperture ; one 
is seated, the other is half reclining against her ; there is 
nothing between them and the bare rock. The light, slant- 
ing upwards, strikes them with ghastly effect, and we can- 
not avoid seeing they are without vesture or covering. At 
the same time we are helped to the knowledge that love is 
there yet, for the two are in each other's arms. Riches take 
wings, comforts vanish, hope withers away, but love stays 
with us. Love is God. 

Where the two are thus grouped the stony floor is pol- 
ished shining-smooth. Who shall say how much of the 
eight years they have spent in that space there in front 
of the aperture, nursing their hope of rescue by that timid 



396 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

yet friendly ray of light ? When the brightness came creep- 
ing in, they knew it was dawn ; when it began to fade, they 
knew the worid was hushing for the night, which could not 
be anywhere so long and utteriy dark as with them. The 
worid ! Through that crevice, as if it were broad and high 
as a king's gate, they went to the worid in thought, and 
passed the weary time going up and down as spirits go, 
looking and asking, the one for her son, the other for her 
brother. On the seas they sought him, and on the islands 
of the seas ; to-day he was in this city, to-morrow in that 
other; and everywhere, and at all times, he was a flitting 
sojourner ; for, as they lived waiting for him, he lived look- 
ing for them. How often their thoughts passed each other 
in the endless search, his coming, theirs going ! It was such 
sweet flattery for them to say to each other, " While he lives, 
we shall not be forgotten; as long as he remembers us, 
there is hope !" The strength one can eke from little, who 
knows till he has been subjected to the trial ? 

Our recollections of them in former days enjoin us to be 
respectful ; their sorrows clothe them with sanctity. With- 
out going too near, across the dungeon, we see they have 
undergone a change of appearance not to be accounted for 
by time or long confinement. The mother was beautiful as 
a woman, the daughter beautiful as a child ; not even love 
could say so much now. Their hair is long, unkempt, and 
strangely white ; they make us shrink and shudder with an 
indefinable repulsion, though the effect may be from an 
illusory glozing of the light glimmering dismally through 
the unhealthy murk ; or they may be enduring the tortures 
of hunger and thirst, not having had to eat or drink since 
their servant, the convict, was taken away — that is, since 
yesterday. 

Tirzah, reclining against her mother in half -embrace, 
moans piteously. 

" Be quiet, Tirzah. They will come. God is good. We 
have been mindful of him, and forgotten not to pray at every 
sounding of the trumpets over in the Temple. The light, 
you see, is still bright ; the sun is standing in the south sky 
yet, and it is hardly more than the seventh hour. Some- 
body will come to us. Let us have faith. God is good.'' 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 397 

Thus the mother. The words were simple and effective, 
although, eight years being now to be added to the thirteen 
she had attained when last we saw her, Tirzah was no longer 
a child. 

" I will try and be strong, mother," she said. " Your suf- 
fering must be great as mine ; and I do so want to live for 
you and my brother ! But my tongue burns, my lips scorch. 
I wonder where be is, and if he will ever, ever find us 1" 

There is something in the voices that strikes us singular- 
ly — an unexpected tone, sharp, dry, metallic, unnatural. 

The mother draws the daughter closer to her breast, and 
says, **I dreamed about him last night, and saw him as 
plainly, Tirzah, as I see you. We must believe in dreams, 
you know, because our fathers did. The Lord spoke to 
them so often in that way. I thought we were in the 
Women's Court just before the Gate Beautiful ; there were 
many women with us ; and he came and stood in the shade 
of the Gate, and looked here and there, at this one and 
that. My heart beat strong. I knew be was looking for 
us, and stretched my arms to him, and ran, calling him. 
He heard me and saw me, but he did not know me. In a 
moment he was gone." 

" Would it not be so, mother, if we were to meet him in 
fact ? We are so changed." 

"It might be so; but — " The mother's head droops, 
and her face knits as with a wrench of pain ; recovering, 
however, she goes on — " but we could make ourselves known 
to him." 

Tirzah tossed her arms, and moaned again. 

" Water, mother, water, though but a drop." 

The mother stares around in blank helplessness. She has 
named God so often, and so often promised in his name, 
the repetition is beginning to have a mocking effect upon 
herself. A shadow passes before her dimming the dim light, 
and she is brought down to think of death as very near, 
waiting to come in as her faith goes out. Hardly knowing 
what £e does, speaking aimlessly, because speak she must, 
she says again, 

" Patience, Tirzah ; they are coming — they are almost 
here." 



39« BEN-HUB: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

She thoaght she heard a sound over by the little trap in 
the partition-wall through which they held all their actual 
communication with the world. And she was not mistaken. 
A moment, and the cry of the convict rang through the cell. 
Tirzah heard it also ; and they both arose, still keeping hold 
of each other. 

"Praised be the Lord forever!" exclaimed the mother, 
with the fervor of restored faith and hope. 

" Ho, there !" they heard next ; and then, " Who are you ?" 

The voice was strange. What matter? Except from 
Tirzah, they were the first and only words the mother had 
heard in eight years. The revulsion was mighty — ^from 
death to life — and so instantly ! 

*' A woman of Israel, entombed here with her daughter. 
Help us quickly, or we die." 

" Be of cheer. I will return." 

The women sobbed aloud. They were found ; help was 
coming. From wish to wish hope flew as the twittering 
swallows fly. They were found ; they would be released. 
And restoration would follow — restoration to all they had 
lost — home, society, property, son and brother ! The scanty 
light glozed them with the glory of day, and, forgetful of 
pain and thirst and hunger, and of the menace of death, they 
sank upon the floor and cried, keeping fast hold of each 
other the while. 

And this time they had not long to wait. Gesius, the 
keeper, told his tale methodically, but finished it at last. 
The tribune was prompt. 

" Within there !" he shouted through the trap. 

" Here !" said the mother, rising. 

Directly she heard another sound in another place, as of 
blows on the wall — blows quick, ringing, and delivered with 
iron tools. She did not speak, nor did Tirzah, but they 
listened, well knowing the meaning of it all — that a way to 
liberty was being made for them. So men a long time bur- 
ied in deep mines hear the coming of rescuers, heralded by 
thrust of bar and beat of pick, and answer gratefully with 
heart-throbs, their eyes fixed upon the spot whence the 
sounds proceed ; and they cannot look away, lest the work 
should cease, and they be returned to despair. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 399 

The arms outside were strong, the hands sldlfal, the will 
good. Each instant the blows sounded more plainly; now 
and then a piece fell with a crash ; and liberty came nearer 
and nearer. Presently the workmen could be heard speaking. 
Then — O happiness 1 — through a crevice flashed a red ray 
of torches. Into the darkness it cut incisive as diamond 
brilliance, beautiful as if from a spear of the morning. 

** It is he, mother, it is he ! He has found us at last T' 
cried Tirzah, with the quickened fancy of youth. 

But the mother answered meekly, ** God is good !" 

A block fell inside, and another — then a great mass, and 
the door was open. A man grimed with mortar and stone- 
dust stepped in, and stopped, holding a torch over his head. 
Two or three others followed with torches, and stood aside 
for the tribune to enter. 

Respect for women is not all a conventionality, for it is 
the best proof of their proper nature. The tribune stopped, 
because they fled from him — not with fear, be it said, but 
shame ; nor yet, O reader, from shame alone ! From the 
obscurity of their partial hiding he heard these words, the 
saddest, most dreadful, most utterly despairing of the hu- 
man tongue : 

" Come not near us — unclean, unclean !" 

The men flared their torches while they stared at each 
other. 

" Unclean, unclean !" came from the corner again, a slow 
tremulous wail exceedingly sorrowful. With such a cry we 
can imagine a spirit vanishing from the gates of Paradise, 
looking back the while. 

So the widow and mother performed her duty, and in the 
moment realized that the freedom she had prayed for and 
dreamed of, fruit of scarlet and gold seen afar, was but an 
apple of Sodom in the hand. 

She and Tirzah were — lepers I 

Possibly the reader does not know all the word means. 
Let him be told it with reference to the Law of that time, 
only a little modified in this. 

** These four are accounted as dead — the blind, the leper, 
the poor, and the childless.^' Thus the Talmud. 

That is, to be a leper was to be treated as dead-— to be 



400 BEX-nUR: A TALE OF THE CHKIST. 

excluded from the city as a corpse ; to be spoken to by the 
best beloved and most loving only at a distance ; to dwell 
•with none but lepers ; to be utterly unprivileged ; to be de- 
nied the rites of the Temple and the synagogue; to go 
about in rent garments and with covered month, except 
when crying, " Unclean, unclean !" to find home in the 
wilderness or in abandoned tombs ; to become a material- 
ized spectre of Hinnom and Gehenna; to be at all times 
less a living offence to others than a breathing torment to 
self ; afraid to die, yet without hope except in death. 

Once — she might not tell the day or the year, for down 
in the haunted hell even time was lost — once the mother 
felt a dry scurf in the palm of her right hand, a trifle which 
she tried to wash away. It clung to the member perti- 
naciously ; yet she thought but little of the sign till Tirzah 
complained that she, too, was attacked in the same way. 
The supply of water was scant, and they denied themselves 
drink that they might use it as a curative. At length the 
whole hand was attacked ; the skin cracked open, the finger- 
nails loosened from the flesh. There was not much pain 
withal, chiefly a steadily increasing discomfort. Later their 
lips began to parch and seam. One day the mother, who 
was cleanly to godliness, and struggled against the impuri- 
ties of the dungeon with all ingenuity, thinking the enemy 
was taking hold on Tirzah's face, led her to the light, and, 
looking with the inspiration of a terrible dread, lol the 
young girl's eyebrows were white as snow. 

Oh, the anguish of that assurance ! 

The mother sat awhile speechless, motionless, paralyzed 
of soul, and capable of but one thought — leprosy, leprosy ! 

When she began to think, mother-like, it was not of herself, 
but her child, and, mother-like, her natural tenderness turned 
to courage, and she made ready for the last sacrifice of per- 
fect heroism. She buried her knowledge in her heart ; hope- 
less herself, she redoubled her devotion to Tirzah, and with 
wonderful ingenuity — wonderful chiefly in its very inexhaust- 
ibility — continued to keep the daughter ignorant of what 
they were beset with, and even hopeful that it was nothing. 
She repeated her little games, and retold her stories, and in- 
vented new ones, and listened with ever so much pleasure 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 401 

to the songs she would have from Tirzah, while on her own 
wasting lips the psalms of the singing king of their race 
served to bring soothing of forgetf ulness, and keep alive in 
them both the recollection of the God who would seem to 
have abandoned them — ^the world not more lightly or utterly. 

Slowly, steadily, with horrible certainty, the disease spread, 
after a while bleaching their heads white, eating holes in 
their lips and eyelids, and covering their bodies with scales ; 
then it fell to their throats, shrilling their voices, and to 
their joints, hardening the tissues and cartileges — slowly, 
and, as the mother well knew, past remedy, it was affecting 
their lungs and arteries and bones, at each advance making 
the sufferers more and more loathsome; and so it would 
continue till death, which might be years before them. 
. Another day of dread at length came — the day the moth- 
er, under impulsion of duty, at last told Tirzah the name of 
their ailment ; and the two, in agony of despair, prayed that 
the end might come quickly. 

Still, as is the force of habit, these so afflicted grew in 
time not merely to speak composedly of their disease ; they 
beheld the hideous transformation of their persons as of 
course, and in despite clung to existence. One tie to earth 
remained to them ; unmindful of their own loneliness, they 
kept up a certain spirit by talking and dreaming of Ben- 
Hur. The mother promised reunion with him to the sister, 
and she to the mother, not doubting, either of them, that he 
was equally faithful to them, and would be equally happy 
of the meeting. And with the spinning and respinning of 
this slender thread they found pleasure, and excused their 
not dying. In such manner as we have seen, they were 
solacing themselves the moment Gesius called them, at the 
end of twelve hours' fasting and thirst. 

The torches flashed redly through the dungeon, and lib- 
erty was come. " God is good," the widow cried — ^not for 
what had been, O reader, but for what was. In thankful- 
ness for present mercy, nothing so becomes us as losing 
sight of past ills. 

The tribune came directly ; then in the comer to which 
she had fled, suddenly a sense of duty smote the elder of 
the women, and straightway t^e awful warning — 
20 



402 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

" Unclean, unclean !" 

Ah, the pang the effort to acquit herself of that duty cost 
the mother! Not all the selfishness of joy over the pros- 
pect could keep her blind to the consequences of release, 
now that it was at hand. The old happy life could never 
be again. If she went near the house called home, it would 
be to stop at the gate and cry, " Unclean, unclean !" She 
must go about with the yearnings of love alive in her breast 
strong as ever, and more sensitive even, because return in 
kind could not be. The boy of whom she had so constant- 
ly thought, and with all sweet promises such as mothers 
find their purest delight in, must, at meeting her, stand afar 
off. K he held out his hands to her, and called " Mother, 
mother," for very love of him she must answer, " Unclean, 
unclean !" And this other child, before whom, in want of 
other covering, she was spreading her long tangled locks, 
bleached unnaturally white — ah! that she was she must 
continue, sole partner of her blasted remainder of life. Yet, 
O reader, the brave woman accepted the lot, and took up 
the cry which had been its sign immemorially, and which 
thenceforward was to be her salutation without change — 
" Unclean, unclean !" 

The tribune heard it with a tremor, but kept his place. 

" Who are you ?" he asked. 

**Two women dying of hunger and thirst. Yet" — the 
mother did not falter — " come not near us, nor touch the 
floor or the wall. Unclean, unclean !" 

" Give me thy story, woman — ^thy name, and when thou 
wert put here, and by whom, and for what." 

" There was once in this city of Jerusalem a Prince Ben- 
Hur, the friend of all generous Romans, and who had Caesar 
for his friend. I am his widow, and this one with me is 
his child. How may I tell you for what we were sunk here, 
when I do not know, unless it was because we were rich ? 
Valerius Gratus can tell you who our enemy was, and when 
our imprisonment began. I cannot. See to what we have 
been reduced — oh, see, and have pity !" 

The air was heavy with the pest and the smoke of the 
torches, yet the Roman called one of the torch-bearers to 
his side, and wrote the answer nearly word for word. It 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 403 

was terse and comprehensive, containing at once a history, 
an accusation, and a prayer. No common person could 
have made it, and he could not but pity and believe. 

" Thou shalt have relief woman," he said, closing the 
tablets. " I will send thee food and drink." 

" And raiment, and purifying water, we pray you, O gen- 
erous Roman !" 

" As thou wilt," he replied. 

"God is good," said the widow, sobbing. "May his 
peace abide with you !" 

" And, further," he added, " I cannot see thee again. 
Make preparation, and to-night I will have thee taken to 
the gate of the Tower, and set free. Thou knowest the 
law. Farewell." 

He spoke to the men, and went out the door. 

Very shortly some slaves came to the cell with a large 
gurglet of water, a basin and napkins, a platter with bread 
and meat, and some garments of women's wear ; and, setting 
them down within reach of the prisoners, they ran away. 

About the middle of the first watch, the two were con- 
ducted to the gate, and turned into the street. So the Ro- 
man quit himself of them, and in the city of their fathers 
they were once more free. 

Up to the stars, twinkling merrily as of old, they looked ; 
then they asked themselves, 

" What next ? and where to ?" 



Chapter III. 

About the hour Oesius, the keeper, made his appearance 
before the tribune in the Tower of Antonia, a footman was 
climbing the eastern face of Mount Olivet. The road was 
rough and dusty, and vegetation on that side burned brown, 
for it was the dry season in Judea. Well for the traveller 
that he had youth and strength, not to speak of the cool 
flowing garments with which he was clothed. 

He proceeded slowly, looking often to his right and left ; 
not with the vexed anxious expression which marks a man 



404 BEN-HUR. A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

going forward uncertain of the way, but rather the air with 
which one approaches an old acquaintance after a long sep- 
aration — half of pleasure, half of inquiry ; as if he were say- 
ing, *' I am glad to be with you again ; let me see in what 
you are changed." 

As he arose higher, he sometimes paused to look behind 
him over the gradually widening view terminating in the 
mountains of Moab ; but when at length he drew near the 
summit, he quickened his step, unmindful of fatigue, and 
hurried on without pause or turning of the face. On the 
summit — to reach which he bent his steps somewhat right 
of the beaten path — he came to a dead stop, arrested as if 
by a strong hand. Then one might have seen his eyes di- 
late, his cheeks flush, his breath quicken, effects all of one 
bright sweeping glance at what lay before him. 

The traveller, good reader, was no other than Ben-Hur ; 
the spectacle, Jerusalem. 

Not the Holy City of to-day, but the Holy City as left 
by Herod — the Holy City of the Christ. Beautiful yet, as 
seen from old Olivet, what must it have been then ? 

Ben-Hur betook him to a stone and sat down, and, strip- 
ping his head of the close white handkerchief which served 
it for covering, made the survey at leisure. 

The same has been done often since by a great variety of 
persons, under circumstances surpassingly singular— by the 
son of Vespasian, by the Islamite, by the Crusader, con- 
querors all of them ; by many a pilgrim from the great New 
World, which waited discovery nearly fifteen hundred years 
after the time of our story ; but of the multitude probably 
not one has taken that view with sensations more keenly 
poignant, more sadly sweet, more proudly bitter, than Ben- 
Hur. He was stirred by recollections of his countrymen, 
their triumphs and vicissitudes, their history the history of 
God. The city was of their building, at once a lasting tes- 
timony of their crimes and devotion, their weakness and 
genius, their religion and their irreligion. Though he had 
seen Rome to familiarity, he was gratified. The sight filled 
a measure of pride which would have made him drunk with 
vainglory but for the thought, princely as the property 
was, it did not any longer belong to his countrymen ; the 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 405 

worship in the Temple was by permission of strangers ; the 
bill where David dwelt was a marbled cheat*— an oflSce in 
which the chosen of the Lord were wrung and wrung for 
taxes, and scourged for very deathlessness of faith. These, 
however, were pleasures and griefs of patriotism common to 
every Jew of the period ; in addition, Ben-Hur brought with 
him a personal history which would not out of mind for 
other consideration whatever, which the spectacle served 
only to freshen and vivify. 

A country of hills changes but little ; where the hills are 
of rock, it changes not at all. The scene Ben-Hur beheld 
is the same now, except as respects the city. The failure 
is in the handiwork of man alone. 

The sun dealt more kindly by the west side of Olivet than 
by the east, and men were certainly more loving towards it. 
The vines with which it was partially clad, and the sprinkling 
of trees, chiefly figs and old wild olives, were comparatively 
green. Down to the dry bed of the Cedron the verdure 
extended, a refreshment to the vision ; there Olivet ceased 
and Moriah began — a wall of bluff boldness, white as snow, 
founded by Solomon, completed by Herod. Up, up the 
wall the eye climbed course by course of the ponderous 
rocks composing it — up to Solomon's Porch, which was as 
the pedestal of the monument, the hill being the plinth. Lin- 
gering there a moment, the eye resumed its climbing, going 
next to the Gentiles' Court, then to the Israelites' Court, then 
to the Women's Court, then to the Court of the Priests, 
each a pillared tier of white marble, one above the other in 
terraced retrocession ; over them all a crown of crowns in- 
finitely sacred, infinitely beautiful, majestic in proportions, 
effulgent with beaten gold — lo ! the Tent, the Tabernacle, 
the Holy of Holies. The Ark was not there, but Jehovah 
was — in the faith of every child of Israel he was there a 
personal Presence. As a temple, as a monument, there was 
nowhere anjrthing of man's building to approach that super- 
lative apparition. Now, not a stone of it remains above an- 
other. Who shall rebuild that building ? When shall the 
rebuilding be begun ? So asks every pilgrim who has stood 
where Ben-Hur was — he asks, knowing the answer is in the 
bosom of God, whose secrets are not least marvellous in 



406 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

their well-keeping. And then the third question, What of 
him who foretold the ruin which has so certainly befallen ? 
God? Or man of God? Or — enough that the question is 
for us to answer. 

And still Ben-Hur's eyes climbed on and up — ^up over 
the roof of the Temple, to the hill Zion, consecrated to sa- 
cred memories, inseparable from the anointed kings. He 
knew the Cheesemonger's Valley dipped deep down between 
Moriah and Zion ; that it was spanned by the Xystus ; that 
there were gardens and palaces in its depths ; but over them 
all his thoughts soared with his vision to the great grouping 
on the royal hill — -the house of Caiaphas, the Central Syna- 
gogue, the Roman Praetorium, Hippicus the eternal, and 
the sad but mighty cenotaphs Fhasselus and Mariamne — all 
relieved against Gareb, purpling in the distance. And when 
midst them he singled out the palace of Herod, what could 
he but think of the King Who Was Coming, to whom he was 
himself devoted, whose path he had undertaken to smooth, 
whose empty hands he dreamed of filling ? And forward ran 
his fancy to the day the new King should come to claim his 
own and take possession of it — of Moriah and its Temple ; 
of Zion and its towers and palaces ; of Antonia, frowning 
darkly there just to the right of the Temple ; of the new 
unwalled city of Bezetha ; of the millions of Israel to assem- 
ble with palm-branches and banners, to sing rejoicing be- 
cause the Lord had conquered and given them the world. 

Men speak of dreaming as if it were a phenomenon of 
night and sleep. They should know better. All results 
achieved by us are self -promised, and all self -promises are 
made in dreams awake. Dreaming is the relief of labor, the 
wine that sustains us in act. We learn to love labor, not for 
itself, but for the opportunity it furnishes for dreaming, 
which is the great under-monotone of real life, unheard, 
unnoticed, because of its constancy. Living is dreaming. 
Only in the grave are there no dreams. Let no one smile 
at Ben-Hur for doing that which he himself would have 
done at that time and place under the same circumstances. 

The sun stooped low in its course. Awhile the flaring 
disk seemed to perch itself on the far summit of the moun- 
tains in the west, brazening all the sky above the city, and 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 407 

rimming tUe walls and towers with the brightness of gold. 
Then it disappeared as with a plunge. The quiet turned 
Ben-Hur's thought homeward. There was a point in the 
sky a little north of the peerless front of the Holy of Holies 
upon which he fixed his gaze : under it, straight as a lead- 
line would have dropped, lay his father's house, if yet the 
house endured. 

The mellowing influences of the evening mellowed his 
feelings, and, putting his ambitions aside, he thought of the 
duty that was bringing him to Jerusalem. 

Out in the desert while with Dderim, looking for strong 
places and acquainting himself with it generally, as a sol- 
dier studies a country in which he has projected a campaign, 
a messenger came one evening with the news that Gratus 
was removed, and Pontius Pilate sent to take his place. 

Messala was disabled and believed him dead ; Gratus was 
powerless and gone ; why should Ben-Hur longer defer the 
search for his mother and sister? There was nothing to 
fear now. If he could not himself see into the prisons of 
Judea, he could examine them with the eyes of others. If 
the lost were found, Pilate could have no motive in holding 
them in custody — none, at least, which could not be over- 
come by purchase. If found, he would carry them to a 
place of safety, and then, in calmer mind, his conscience at 
rest, this one first duty done, he could give himself more en- 
tirely to the King Who Was Coming. He resolved at once. 
That night he counselled with Dderim, and obtained his as- 
sent. Three Arabs came with him to Jericho, where he left 
them and the horses, and proceeded alone and on foot. 
Malluch was to meet him in Jerusalem. 

Ben-Hur's scheme, be it observed, was as yet a generality. 

In view of the future, it was advisable to keep himself 
in hiding from the authorities, particularly the Romans. 
Malluch was shrewd and trusty ; the very man to charge 
with the conduct of the investigation. 

Where to begin was the first point. He had no clear 
idea about it. His wish was to commence with the Tower 
of Anton ia. Tradition not of long standing planted the 
gloomy pile over a labyrinth of prison-cells, which, more 
even than the strong garrison, kept it a terror to the Jewish 



408 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

fancy. A burial, such as his people had been subjected to, 
might be possible there. Besides, in such a strait, the nat- 
ural inclination is to start search at the place where the loss 
occurred, and he could not forget that his last sight of the 
loved ones was as the guard pushed them along the street 
in the direction to the Tower. If they were not there now, 
but had been, some record of the fact must remain, a clew 
which had only to be followed faithfully to the end. 

Under this inclination, moreover, there was a hope which 
he could not forego. From Simonides he knew Amrah, the 
Egyptian nurse, was living. It will be remembered, doubt- 
less, that the faithful creature, the morning the calamity 
overtook the Hurs, broke from the guard and ran back into 
the palace, where, along with other chattels, she had been 
sealed up. During the years following, Simonides kept her 
supplied ; so she was there now, sole occupant of the great 
house, which, with all his offers, Gratus had not been able 
to sell. The story of its rightful owners suflSced to secure 
the property from strangers, whether purchasers or mere 
occupants. People going to and fro passed it with whis- 
pers. Its reputation was that of a haunted house ; derived 
probably from the infrequent glimpses of poor old Amrah, 
sometimes on the roof, sometimes in a latticed window. 
Certainly no more constant spirit ever abided than she ; nor 
was there ever a tenement so shunned and fitted for ghostly 
habitation. Now, if he could get to her, Ben-Hur fancied 
she could help him to knowledge which, though faint, might 
yet be serviceable. Anyhow, sight of her in that place, so 
endeared by recollection, would be to him a pleasure next 
to finding the objects of his solicitude. 

So, first of all things, he would go to the old house, and 
look for Amrab. 

Thus resolved, he arose shortly after the going-down of 
the sun, and began descent of the Mount by the road which, 
from the summit, bends a little north of east. Down near- 
ly at the foot, close by the bed of the Cedron, he came to 
the intersection with the road leading south to the village 
of Siloam and the pool of that name. There he fell in with 
a herdsman driving some sheep to market. He spoke to 
the man, and joined him, and in his company passed by 
Gethsemane on into the city through the Fish Gate. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 409 



Chapter IV. 

It was dark when, parting with the drover inside the 
gate, Ben-Hur turned into a narrow lane leading to the 
south. A few of the people whom he met saluted him. 
The bouldering of the pavement was rough. The houses on 
both sides were low, dark, and cheerless ; the doors all 
closed : from the roofs, occasionally, he heard women croon- 
ing to children. The loneliness of his situation, the night, 
the uncertainty cloaking the object of his coming, all affect- 
ed him cheerlessly. With feelings sinking lower and lower, 
he came directly to the deep reservoir now known as the 
Pool of Bethesda, in which the water rejected the over- 
pending sky. Looking up, he beheld the northern wall of 
the Tower of Antonia, a black frowning heap reared into 
the dim steel-gray sky. He halted as if challenged by a 
threatening sentinel. 

The Tower stood up so high, and seemed so vast, resting 
apparently upon foundations so sure, that he was constrain- 
ed to acknowledge its strength. If his mother were there 
in living burial, what could he do for her ? By the strong 
hand, nothing. An army might beat the stony face with 
ballista and ram, and be laughed at. Against him alone, 
the gigantic southeast turret looked down in the self-con- 
tainment of a hill. And he thought, cunning is so easily 
baffled ; and God, always the last resort of the helpless — God 
is sometimes so slow to act ! 

In doubt and misgiving, he turned into the street in 
front of the Tower, and followed it slowly on to the west. 

Over in Bezetha he knew there was a khan, where it was 
his intention to seek lodging while in the city ; but just 
now he could not resist the impulse to go home. His heart 
drew him that way. 

The old formal salutation which he received from the few 
people who passed him had never sounded so pleasantly. 
Presently, all the eastern sky began to silver and shine, and 



410 BEN-HUB: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

objects before invisible in the west — chiefly the taU towen 
on Mount Zion — emerged as from a shadowy depth, and put 
on spectral distinctness, floating, as it were, above the yawn- 
ing blackness of the valley below, very castles in the air. 

He came, at length, to his father's house. 

Of those who read this page, some there will be to di- 
vine his feelings without prompting. They are such as had 
happy homes in their youth, no matter how far that may 
have been back in time — ^homes which are now the starting- 
points of all recollection ; paradises from which they went 
forth in tears, and which they would now return to, if they 
could, as little children ; places of laughter and singing, and 
associations dearer than any or aU the triumphs of after-life. 

At the gate on the north side of the old house Ben-Hur 
stopped. In the comers the wax used in the sealiug-up was 
still plainly seen, and across the valves was the board with 
the inscription — 

" This is the Propebtt of 



THE EMPEROR." 

Nobody had gone in or out the gate since the dreadful 
day of the separation. Should he knock as of old? It was 
useless, he knew ; yet he could not resist the temptation. 
Amrah might hear, and look out of one of the windows on 
that side. Taking a stone, he mounted the broad stone step, 
and tapped three times. A dull echo replied. He tried 
again, louder than before ; and again, pausing each time to 
listen. The silence was mocking. Retiring into the street, 
he watched the windows ; but they, too, were lifeless. The 
parapet on the roof was defined sharply against the brighten- 
ing sky ; nothing could have stirred upon it unseen by him, 
and nothing did stir. 

From the north side he passed to the west, where there 
were four windows which he watched long and anxiously, 
but with as little effect At times his heart swelled with 
impotent wishes ; at others, he trembled at the deceptions 
of his own fancy. Amrah made no sign — not even a ghost 
stirred. 

Silently, then, he stole round to the south. There, too, 
the gate was sealed and inscribed. The mellow splendor 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 411 

of the August moon, pouring over the crest of Olivet, since 
termed the Mount of Offence, brought the lettering boldly 
out ; and he read, and was filled with rage. All he could 
do was to wrench the board from its nailing, and hurl it 
into the ditch. Then he sat upon the step, and prayed for 
the New King, and that his coming might be hastened. As 
his blood cooled, insensibly he yielded to the fatigue of long 
travel in the summer heat, and sank down lower, and, at 
last, slept. 

About that time two women came down the street from 
the direction of the Tower of Antonia, approaching the 
palace of the Hurs. They advanced stealthily, with timid 
steps, pausing often to listen. At the corner of the rugged 
pile, one said to the other, in a low voice, 

"Thisisit,Tirzahr 

And Tirzah, after a look, caught her mother's hand, and 
leaned upon her heavily, sobbing, but silent 

" Let us go on, my child, because " — the mother hesitated 
and trembled ; then, with an effort to be calm, continued — 
" because when morning comes they will put us out of the 
gate of the city to — return no more." 

Tirzah sank almost to the stones. 

" Ah, yes !" she said, between sobs ; " I forgot. I had 
the feeling of going home. But we are lepers, and have no 
homes ; we belong to the dead !" 

The mother stooped and raised her tenderly, saying, 
" We have nothing to fear. Let us go on." 

Indeed, lifting their empty hands, they could have run 
upon a legion and put it to flight. 

And, creeping in close to the rough wall, they glided on, 
like two ghosts, till they came to the gate, before which 
they also paused. Seeing the board, they stepped upon the 
stone in the scarce cold tracks of Ben-Hur, and read the in- 
scription — " This is the Property of the Emperor." 

Then the mother clasped her hands, and, with upraised 
eyes, moaned in unutterable anguish. 

" What now, mother ? You scare me !" 

And the answer was, presently, " Oh, Tirzah, the poor are 
dead ! He is dead !" 

"Who, mother?" 



412 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

" Your brother ! They took every thing from him — every- 
thing—even this honse !" 

** Poor !" said Tirzah, vacantly. 

" He will never be able to help us." 

" And then, mother ?" 

" To-morrow — to-morrow, my child, we must find a seat 
by the wayside, and beg alms as the lepers do ; beg, or — " 

Tirzah leaned upon her again, and said, whispering, " Let 
us — let us die !" 

" No !" the mother said, firmly. " The Lord has ap- 
pointed our times, and we are believers in the Lord. We 
will wait on him even in this. Come away !" 

She caught Tirzah's hand as she spoke, and hastened to 
the west comer of the house, keeping close to the wall. No 
one being in sight there, they kept on to the next comer, 
and shrank from the moonlight, which lay exceedingly 
bright over the whole south front, and along a part of the 
street. The mother's will was strong. Casting one look 
back and up to the windows on the west side, she stepped 
out into the light, drawing Tirzah after her ; and the extent 
of their affliction was then to be seen — on their lips and 
cheeks, in their bleared eyes, in their cracked hands; es- 
pecially in the long, snaky locks, stiff with loathsome ichor, 
and, like their eyebrows, ghastly white. Nor was it possible 
to have told which was mother, which daughter ; both alike 
seemed witch-like old. 

" Hist !" said the mother. " There is some one lying 
upon the step — a man. Let us go round him." 

They crossed to the opposite side of the street quickly, 
and, in the shade there, moved on till before the gate, where 
they stopped. 

" He is asleep, Tirzah !" 

The man was very still. 

" Stay here, and I will try the gate." 

So saying, the mother stole noiselessly across, and vent- 
ured to touch the wicket ; she never knew if it yielded, for 
that moment the man sighed, and, tuming restlessly, shifted 
the handkerchief on his head in such manner that the face 
was left upturned and fair in the broad moonlight She 
looked down at it and started ; then looked again, stoop- 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 41 3 

ing a little, and arose and clasped her hands and raised her 
eyes to heaven in mute appeal. An instant so, and she ran 
back to Tirzah. 

'* As the Lord liveth, the man is my son — thy brother P 
she said, in an awe-inspiring whisper. 

" My brother ?— Judah ?" 

The mother caught her hand eagerly. 

** Come !" she said, in the same enforced whisper, " let us 
look at him together — once more — only once — then help 
thou thy servants, Lord !" 

They crossed the street hand in hand ghostly-quick, 
ghostly-still. When their shadows fell upon him, they 
stopped. One of his hands was lying out upon the step 
palm up. Tirzah fell upon her knees, and would have 
kissed it ; but the mother drew her back. 

" Not for thy life ; not for thy life ! Unclean, unclean !" 
she whispered. 

Tirzah shrank from him, as if he were the leprous one. 

Ben-Hur was handsome as the manly are. His cheeks ' 
and forehead were swarthy from exposure to the desert sun 
and air ; yet under the light mustache the lips were red, and 
the teeth shone white, and the soft beard did not hide the 
full roundness of chin and throat. How beautiful he ap- 
peared to the mother's eyes ! How mightily she yearned to 
put her arms about him, and take his head upon her bosom 
and kiss him, as had been her wont in his happy child- 
hood ! Where got she the strength to resist the impulse ? 
From her love, O reader ! — her mother-love, which, if thou 
wilt observe well, hath this unlikeness to any other love : 
tender to the object, it can be infinitely tyrannical to itself, 
and thence all its power of self-sacrifice. Not for restoration 
to health and fortune, not for any blessing of life, not for 
life itself, would she have left her leprous kiss upon his 
cheek ! Yet touch him she must ; in that instant of find- 
ing him she must renounce him forever ! How bitter, bit- 
ter hard it was, let some other mother say I She knelt 
down, and, crawling to his feet, touched the sole of one of 
his sandals with her lips, yellow though it was with the dust 
of the street — and touched it again and again ; and her very 
soul was in the kisses. 



414 BENHUB: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

He stirred, and tossed his hand. They moved back, but 
heard him mutter in his dream, 

** Mother ! Amrah ! Where is — " 

He fell off into the deep sleep. 

Tirzah stared wistfully. The mother put her face in the 
dust, struggling to suppress a sob so deep and strong it 
seemed her heart was bursting. Almost she wished he 
might waken. 

He had asked for her; she was not forgotten; in his 
sleep he was thinking of her. Was it not enough ? 

Presently the mother beckoned to Tirzah, and they arose, 
and taking one more look, as if to print his image past 
fading, hand in hand they recrossed the street. Back in the 
shade of the wall there, they retired and knelt, looking at 
him, waiting for him to wake — waiting some revelation, 
they knew not what. Nobody has yet given us a measure 
for the patience of a love like theirs. 

By-and-by, the sleep being yet upon him, another woman 
appeared at the comer of the palace. The two in the shade 
saw her plainly in the light; a small figure, much bent, 
dark-skinned, gray-haired, dressed neatly in servant's garb, 
and carrying a basket full of vegetables. 

At sight of the man upon the step the new-comer 
stopped ; then, as if decided, she walked on — very lightly 
as she drew near the sleeper. Passing round him, she went 
to the gate, slid the wicket latch easily to one side, and put 
her hand in the opening. One of the broad boards in the 
left valve swung ajar without noise. She put the basket 
through, and was about to follow, when, yielding to curi- 
osity, she lingered to have one look at the stranger whose 
face was below her in open view. 

The spectators across the street heard a low exclamation, 
and saw the woman rub her eyes as if to renew their power, 
bend closer down, clasp her hands, gaze wildly around, look 
at the sleeper, stoop and raise the outlying hand, and kiss 
it fondly — that which they wished so mightily to do, but 
dared not. 

Awakened by the action, Ben-Hur instinctively withdrew 
the hand ; as he did so, his eyes met the woman's. 

'' Amrah I O Amrah, is it thou ?" he said. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 41 5 

Tbo good heart made no answer in words, but fell upon 
his neck, crying for joy. 

Gently he put her arms away, and lifting the dark face 
wet with tears, kissed it, his joy only a little less than hers. 
Then those across the way heard him say, 

" Mother — Tirzah — O Amrah, tell me of them ! Speak, 
speak, I pray thee 1" 

Amrah only cried afresh. 

" Thou hast seen them, Amrah. Thou knowest where 
they are ; tell me they are at home." 

Tirzah moved, but the mother, divining her purpose, 
caught her and whispered, " Do not go — not for life. Un- 
clean, unclean !" 

Her love was in tyrannical mood. Though both their 
hearts broke, he should not become what they were ; and 
she conquered. 

Meantime Amrah, so entreated, only wept the more. 

" Wert thou going in ?" he asked, presently, seeing the 
board swung back. " Come, then. I will go with thee." 
He arose as ho spoke. " The Romans — be the curse of the 
Lord upon them I — the Romans lied. The house is mine. 
Rise, Amrah, and let us go in." 

A moment and they were gone, leaving the two in the 
shade to behold the gate staring blankly at them — the gate 
which they might not ever enter more. They nestled to- 
gether in the dust. 

They had done their duty. 

Their love was proven. 

Next morning they were found, and driven out the city 
with stones. 

" Begone ! Ye are of the dead ; go to the dead I" 

With the doom ringing in their ears, they went forth. 



Chapter V. 

' Nowadays travellers in the Holy Land looking for the 
famous place with the beautiful name, the King's Garden, 
descend the bed of the Cedron or the curve of Gihon and 



416 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

Hinnom as far as the old well En-rogel, take a drink of 
the sweet living water, and stop, having reached the limit 
of the interesting in that direction. They look at the great 
stones with which the well is curbed, ask its depth, smile 
at the primitive mode of drawing the purling treasure, and 
waste some pity on the ragged wretch who presides over it ; 
then, facing about, they are enraptured with the mounts 
Moriah and Zion, both of which slope towards them from 
the north, one terminating in Ophel, the other in what used 
to be the site of the city of David. In the background, 
up far in the sky, the garniture of the sacred places is vis- 
ible : here the Haram, with its graceful dome ; yonder the 
stalwart remains of Hippicus, defiant even in ruins. When 
that view has been enjoyed, and is sufficiently impressed upon 
the memory, the travellers glance at the Mount of Offence 
standing in rugged stateliness at their right hand, and then 
at the Hill of Evil Counsel over on the left, in which, if they 
be well up in Scriptural history and in the traditions rab- 
binical and monkish, they will find a certain interest not to 
be overcome by superstitious horror. 

It were long to tell all the points of interest grouped around 
that hill ; for the present purpose, enough that its feet are 
planted in the veritable orthodox Hell of the modems — 
the Hell of brimstone and fire — in the old nomenclature Gre- 
henna ; and that now, as in the days of Christ, its bluff face 
opposite the city on the south and southeast is seamed and 
pitted with tombs which have been immemorially the dwell- 
ing-places of lepers, not singly, but collectively. There they 
set up their government and established their society ; there 
they founded a city and dwelt by themselves, avoided as the 
accursed of God. 

The second morning after the incidents of the preceding 
chapter, Amrah drew near the well En - rogel, and seated 
herself upon a stone. One familiar with Jerusalem, look- 
ing at her, would have said she was the favorite servant of 
some well-to-do family. She brought with her a water-jar 
and a basket, the contents of the latter covered with a snow- 
white napkin. Placing them on the ground at her side, she 
loosened the shawl which fell from her head, knit her fin- 
gers together in her lap, and gazed demurely up to where 



BBN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 417 

the hill drops steeply down into Aceldama and the Potter's 
Field. 

It was very early, and she was the first to arrive at the 
well. Soon, however, a man came bringing a rope and a 
leathern bucket. Saluting the little dark-faced woman, he 
undid the rope, fixed it to the bucket, and waited customers. 
Others who chose to do so might draw water for them- 
selves ; he was a professional in the business, and would 
fill the largest jar the stoutest woman could carry for a 
gerah, 

Ararah sat still, and had nothing to say. Seeing the jar, 
the man asked after a while if she wished it filled ; she an- 
swered him civilly, " Not now ;" whereupon he gave her no 
more attention. When the dawn was fairly defined over 
Olivet, his patrons began to arrive, and he had all he could 
do to attend to them. All the time sha kept her seat, 
looking intently up at the hill. 

The sun made its appearance, yet shb sat watching and 
waiting ; and while she thus waits, let us see what her pur- 
pose is. 

Her custom had been to go to market after nightfall. 
Stealing out unobserved, she would seek the shops in the 
Tyropoeon, or those over by the Fish Gate in the east, make 
her purchases of meat and vegetables, and return and shut 
herself up again. 

The pleasure she derived from the presence of Ben-Hur 
in the old house once more may be imagined. She had 
nothing to tell him of her mistress or Tirzah — nothing. 
He would have had her move to a place not so lonesome ; 
she refused. She would have had him take his own room 
again, which was just as he had left it ; but the danger of 
discovery was too great, and he wished above all things to 
avoid inquiry. He would come and see her often as possi- 
ble. Coming in the night, he would also go away in the 
night. She was compelled to be satisfied, and at once oc- 
cupied herself contriving ways to made him happy. That 
he was a man now did not occur to her ; nor did it enter 
her mind that he might have put by. or lost his boyish 
tastes; to please him, she thought to go on her old round 
of services. He used to be fond of confections; she re- 
27 



418 BEX-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

membered the things in that line which delighted him 
most, and resolved to make them, and have a supply al- 
ways ready when he came. Could anything be happier? 
So next night, earlier than usaal, she stole out with her 
basket, and went over to the Fish Gate Market Wander- 
ing about, seeking the best honey, she chanced to hear a 
man teUing a story. 

What the story was the reader can arrive at with suflS- 
cient certainty when told that the narrator was one of the 
men who had held torches for the commandant of the Tow- 
er of Antonia when, down in cell VL, the Hurs were found. 
The particulars of the finding were all told, and she heard 
them, with the names of the prisoners, and the widow's ac- 
count of herself. 

The feelings with which Amrah listened to the recital 
were such as became the devoted creature she was. She 
made her purchases, and returned home in a dream. What 
a happiness she had in store for her boy ! She had found 
his mother ! 

She put the basket away, now laughing, now crying. 
Suddenly she stopped and thought. It would kill him to 
be told that his mother and Tirzah were lepers. He would 
go through the awful city over on the Hill of Evil Counsel 
— into each infected tomb he would go without rest, ask- 
ing for them, and the disease would catch him, and their 
fate would be his. She wrung her hands. What should 
she do ? 

Like many a one before her, and many a one since, she 
derived inspiration, if not wisdom, from her affection, and 
came to a singular conclusion. 

The lepers, she knew, were accustomed of mornings to 
come down from their sepulchral abodes in the hill, and 
take a supply of water for the day from the well En-rogel. 
Bringing their jars, they would set them on the ground and 
wait, standing afar until they were filled. To that the mis- 
tress and Tirzah must come ; for the law was inexorable, 
and admitted no distinction. A rich leper was no better 
than a poor one. 

So Amrah decided not to speak to Ben-Hur of the story 
she had heard, but go alone to the well and wait. Hunger 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 419 

and thirst would drive the unfortunates thither, and she be- 
lieved she could recognize them at sight ; if not, they might 
recognize her. 

Meantime Ben-Hur came, and they talked much. To- 
morrow Malluch would arrive; then the search should be 
immediately begun. He was impatient to be about it. To 
amuse himself he would visit the sacred places in the vicin- 
ity. The secret, we may be sure, weighed heavily on the 
woman, but she held her peace. 

When he was gone she busied herself in the preparation 
of things good to eat, applying her utmost skill to the work. 
At the approach of day, as signalled by the stars, she filled 
the basket, selected a jar, and took the road to En-rogel, 
going out by the Fish Gate which was earliest open, and 
arriving as we have seen. 

Shortly after sunrise, when business at the well was most 
pressing, and the drawer of water most hurried ; when, in 
fact, half a dozen buckets were in use at the same time, 
everybody making haste to get away before the cool of the 
morning melted into the heat of the day, the tenantry of 
the hill began to appear and move about the doors of their 
tombs. Somewhat later they were discernible in groups, of 
which not a few were children so young that they suggested 
the holiest relation. Numbers came momentarily around the 
turn of the bluff — women with jars upon their shoulders, old 
and very feeble men hobbling along on staffs and crutches. 
Some leaned upon the shoulders of others ; a few — the ut- 
terly helpless — lay, like heaps of rags, upon litters. Even 
that community of superlative sorrow had its love-light to 
make life endurable and attractive. Distance softened with- 
out entirely veiling the misery of the outcasts. 

From her seat by the well Amrah kept watch upon the 
spectral groups. She scarcely moved. More than once she 
imagined she saw those she sought. That they were there 
upon the hill she had no doubt ; that they must come down 
and near she knew ; when the people at the well were all 
served they would come. 

Now, quite at the base of the bluff there was a tomb 
which had more than once attracted Amrah by its wide gap- 
ing. A stone of large dimensions stood near its mouth. 



420 BEN-HUB: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

The snn looked into it throDgh the hottest hours of the day, 
and altogether it seemed uninhabitable by anything living, 
unless, perchance, by some wild dogs returning from scav- 
enger duty down in Gehenna. Thence, however, and great- 
ly to her surprise, the patient Egyptian beheld two women 
come, one half supporting, half leading, the other. They 
were both white-haired; both looked old; but their gar- 
ments were not rent, and they gazed about them as if the 
locality were new. The witness below thought she even 
saw them shrink terrified at the spectacle offered by the 
hideous assemblage of which they found themselves part 
Slight reasons, certainly, to make her heart beat faster, and 
draw her attention to them exclusively ; but so they did. 

The two remained by the stone awhile ; then they moved 
slowly, painfully, and with much fear towards the well, 
whereat several voices were raised to stop them ; yet they 
kept on. The drawer of water picked up some pebbles, 
and made ready to drive them back. The company cursed 
them. The greater company on the hill shouted shrilly, 
" Unclean, unclean !" 

" Surely," thought Amrah of the two, as they kept com- 
ing — " surely, they are strangers to the usage of lepers." 

She arose, and went to meet them, taking the basket and 
jar. The alarm at the well immediately subsided. 

" What a fool," said one, laughing, " what a fool to give 
good bread to the dead in that way !" 

" And to think of her coming so far !" said another. " I 
would at least make them meet me at the gate." 

Amrah, with better impulse, proceeded. If she should 
be mistaken ! Her heart arose into her throat. And the 
farther she went the more doubtful and confused she be- 
came. Four or five yards from where they stood waiting 
for her she stopped. 

That the mistr^to she loved! whose hand she had so 
often kissed in gratitude I whose image of matronly love- 
liness she had treasured in memory so faithfully! And 
that the Tirzah she had nursed through babyhood ! whose 
pains she had soothed, whose sports she had shared ! that 
the smiling, sweet- faced, songful Tirzah, the light of the 
great house, the promised blessing of her old age ! Her 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 42 1 

mistress, her darling — they ? The soul of the woman sick- 
ened at the sight. 

" These are old women," she said to herself. " I never 
saw them before. I will go back." 

She turned away. 

" Amrah," said one of the lepers. 

The Egyptian dropped the jar, and looked back, trem-, 
bling. 

" Who called me ?" she asked. 

" Amrah." 

The servant's wondering eyes settled upon the speaker's 
face. 

** Who are you ?" she cried. 

" We are they you are seeking." 

Amrah fell upon her knees. 

"0 my mistress, my mistress! As I have made your 
God my God, be he praised that he has led me to you !" 

And upon her knees the poor overwhelmed creature be- 
gan moving forward. 

" Stay, Amrah ! Come not nearer. Unclean, unclean 1" 

The words suflBced. Amrah fell upon her face, sobbing 
so loud the people at the well heard her. Suddenly she 
arose upon her knees again. 

" O my mistress, where is Tirzah ?" 

" Here I am, Amrah, here 1 Will you not bring me a 
little water?" 

The habit of the servant renewed itself. Putting back 
the coarse hair fallen over her face, Amrah arose and went 
to the basket and uncovered it. 

'* See," she said, " here are bread and meat." 

She would have spread the napkin upon the ground, but 
the mistress spoke again, 

** Do not so, Amrah. Those yonder may stone you, and 
refuse us drink. Leave the basket with n>e. Take up the 
jar and fiU it, and bring it here. We will carry them to 
the tomb with us. For this day you will then have render- 
ed all the service that is lawful. Haste, Amrah." 

The people under whose eyes all this had passed made 
way for the servant, and even helped her fill the jar, so 
piteous was the grief her countenance showed. 



422 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

" Who are they ?" a woman asked. 

Amrah meekly answered, " They used to be good to me." 

Raising the jar upon her shoulder, she hurried back. In 
forgetfulness, she would have gone to them, but the cry 
" Unclean, unclean ! Beware !" arrested her. Placing the 
water by the basket, she stepped back, and stood off a little 
way. 

" Thank you, Amrah," said the mistress, taking the ar- 
ticles into possession. " This is very good of you." 

" Is there nothing more I can do ?" asked Amrah. 

The mother's hand was upon the jar, and she was fevered 
with thirst ; yet she paused, and rising, said firmly, " Yes, 
I know that Judah has come home. I saw him at the gate 
night before last asleep on the step. I saw you wake him." 

Amrah clasped her hands. 

" O my mistress ! You saw it, and did not come !" 

**That would have been to kill him. I can never take 
him in my arms again. I can never kiss him more. O 
Amrah, Amrah, you love him, I know !" 

" Yes," said the true heart, bursting into tears again, and 
kneeling. " I would die for him." 

" Prove to me what you say, Amrah." 

" I am ready." 

" Then you shall not tell him where we are or that you 
have seen us — onlv that, Amrah." 

" But he is looking for you. He has come from afar to 
find you." 

" He must not find us. He shall not become what we 
are. Hear, Amrah. You shall serve us as you have this 
day. You shall bring us the little we need — not long now 
— not long. You shall come every morning and evening 
thus, and — and" — the voice trembled, the strong will almost 
broke down — ** and you shall tell us of him, Amrah ; but 
to him you shall say nothing of us. Hear you?" 

" Oh, it will be so hard to hear him speak of you, and see 
him going about looking for you — to see all his love, and 
not tell him so much as that you are alive !" 

** Can you tell him we are well, Amrah?" 

The servant bowed her head in her arms. 

''^0," the mistreaa coiilmMftd*, " wherefore be silent alto- 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 423 

gether. Go now, and come this evening. We will look for 
you. Till then, farewell." 

" The burden will be heavy, my mistress, and hard to 
bear," said Amrah, falling upon her face. 

" How much harder would it be to see him as we are," 
the mother answered as she gave the basket to Tirzah. 
" Come again this evening," she repeated, taking up the 
water, and starting for the tomb. 

Amrah waited kneeling until they had disappeared ; then 
she took the road sorrowfully home. 

In the evening she returned; and thereafter it became 
her custom to serve them in the morning and evening, so 
that they wanted for nothing needful. The tomb, though 
ever so stony and desolate, was less cheerless than the cell 
in the Tower had been. Daylight gilded its door, and it 
was in the beautiful world. Then, one can wait death with 
so much more faith out under the open sky. 



Chapter VI. 

The morning of the first day of the seventh month — 
Tishri in the Hebrew, October in English — Ben-Hur arose 
from his couch in the khian ill satisfied with the whole 
world. 

Little time had been lost in consultation upon the ar- 
rival of Malluch. The latter began the search at the Tower 
of Antonia, and began it boldly, by a direct inquiry of the 
tribune commanding. He gave the officer a history of the 
Hurs, and all the particulars of the accident to Gratus, de- 
scribing the affair as wholly without criminality. The ob- 
ject of the quest now, he said, was if any of the unhappy 
family were discovered alive to carry a petition to the feet 
of Caesar, praying restitution of the estate and return to 
their civil rights. Such a petition, he had no doubt, would 
result in an investigation by the imperial order, a proceed- 
ing of which the friends of the family had no fear. 

In reply the tribune stated circumstantially the discovery 
of the women in the Tower, and permitted a reading of the 



424 BEX-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

memorandum he had taken of their account of themselves ; 
when leave to copy it was prayed, he even, permitted that. 

Malluch thereupon hurried to Ben-Hur. 

It were useless to attempt description of the effect the 
terrible story had upon the young man. The pain was not 
relieved by tears or passionate outcries ; it was too deep for 
any expression. He sat still a long time, with pallid face 
and laboring heart. Now and then, as if to show the 
thoughts which were most poignant, he muttered, 

" Lepers, lepers ! They — my mother and Tirzah — they 
lepers ! How long, how long, O Lord !" 

One moment he was torn by a virtuous rage of sorrow, 
next by a longing for vengeance which, it must be admitted, 
was scarcely less virtuous. 

At length he arose. 

" I must look for them. They may be dying." 

" Where will you look?" asked Malluch. 

" There is but one place for them to go." 

Malluch interposed, and finally prevailed so far as to have 
the management of the further attempt intrusted to Lim. 
Together they went to the gate over on the side opposite 
the Hill of Evil Counsel, immemorially the lepers' begging- 
ground. There they stayed all day, giving alms, asking for 
the two women, and offering rich rewards for their discov- 
ery. So they did in repetition day after day through the 
remainder of the fifth month, and all the sixth. There was 
diligent scouring of the dread city on the hill by lepers to 
whom the rewards offered were mighty incentives, for they 
were only dead in law. Over and over again the gaping 
tomb down by the well was invaded, and its tenants sub- 
jected to inquiry ; but they kept their secret fast. The re- 
sult was failure. And now, the morning of the first day of 
the seventh month, the extent of the additional information 
gained was that not long before two leprous women had 
been stoned from the Fish Gate by the authorities. A lit- 
tle pressing of the clew, together with some shrewd com- 
parbon of dates, led to the sad assurance that the sufferers 
were the Hurs, and left the old questions darker than ever. 
Where were they? And what had become of them? 

"It was not enough tiiat, my people should be made lep- 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CURIST. 425 

ers," said the son, over and over again, with what intensity 
of bitterness the reader may imagine; "that was not 
enough. Oh no ! They must be stoned from their native 
city ! My mother is dead ! she has wandered to the wilder- 
ness I she is dead ! Tirzah is dead ! I alone am left. And 
for what ? How long, O God, thou Lord God of my fathers, 
how long shall this Rome endure ?" 

Angry, hopeless, vengeful, he entered the court of the 
khan, and found it crowded with people come in during 
the night. While he ate his breakfast, he listened to some 
of them. To one party he was specially attracted. They 
were mostly young, stout, active, hardy men, in manner and 
speech provincial. In their look, the certain indefinable air, 
the pose of the head, glance of the eye, there was a spirit 
which did not, as a rule, belong to the outward seeming of 
the lower orders of Jerusalem ; the spirit thought by some 
to be a peculiarity of life in mountainous districts, but 
which may be more surely traced to a life of healthful free- 
dom. In a short time he ascertained they were Galileans, 
in the city for various purposes, but chiefly to take part in 
the Feast of Trumpets, set for that day. They became to 
him at once objects of interest, as hailing from the region 
in which he hoped to find readiest support in the work he 
was shortly to set about. 

While observing them, his mind running ahead in thought 
of achievements possible to a legion of such spirits disci- 
plined after the severe Roman style, a man came into the 
court, his face much flushed, his eyes bright with excitement. 

"Why are you here?" he said to the Galileans. "The 
rabbis and elders are going from the Temple to see Pilate. 
Come, make haste, and let us go with them." 

They surrounded him in a moment. 

" To see Pilate I For what?" 

" They have discovered a conspiracy. Pilate's new aque- 
duct is to be paid for with money of the Temple." 

" What, with the sacred treasure ?" 

They repeated the question to each other with flashing 
eyes. 

" It is Corban — money of God. Let him touch a shekel 
of it if he dare I" 



426 BEX-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHJUST. 

" Come," cried the messenger. " The procession is by 
this time across the bridge. The whole city is pouring af- 
ter. We may be needed. Make haste !" 

As if the thought and the act were one, there was qnick 
pntting-away of useless garments, and the party stood forth 
bareheaded, and in the short sleeveless under-tunics they 
were used to wearing as reapers in the field and boatmen 
on the lake — the garb in which they climbed the hills fol- 
lowing the herds, and plucked the ripened vintage, careless 
of the sun. Lingering only to tighten their girdles, they 
said, " We are ready." 

Then Ben-Hur spoke to them. 

" Men of Gralilee," he said, " I am a son of Judah. Will 
you take me in your company ?" 

" We may have to fight," they replied. 
" Oh, then, I will not be first to run away !" 
They took the retoi-t in good humor, and the messenger 
said, " You seem stout enough. Come along." 
Ben-Hur put off his outer garments. 
** You think there may be fighting," he asked, qnietly, as 
he tightened his girdle. 
"Yes." 

" With whom r 
" The guard." 
"Legionaries?" 

" Whom else can a Roman trust ?" 
" What have you to fight with ?" 
They looked at him silently. 

" Well," he continued, " we will have to do the best we 
can; but had we not better choose a leader? The legion- 
aries always have one, and so are able to act with one 
mind." 

The Galileans stared more curiously, as if the idea were 
new to them. 

" Let us at least agree to stay together," he said. ** Now 
I am ready, if you are." 
"Yes, let us go." 

The khan, it should not be forgotten, was in Bezetha, the 
new town ; and to get to the Prsetorium, as the Romans 
resonantly styled the ^^^lace of Herod on Mount Zion the 



BEN-HCR; A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 427 

party had to cross the lowlands north and west of the Tem- 
ple. By streets — if they may be so called — trending north 
and south, with intersections hardly up to the dignity of 
alleys, they passed rapidly round the Akra district to the 
Tower of Mariamne, from which the way was short to the 
grand gate of the walled heights. In going, they overtook, 
or were overtaken by, people like themselves stirred to wrath 
by news of the proposed desecration. When, at length, 
they reached the gate of the PrsBtorium, the procession of 
elders and rabbis had passed in with a great following, 
leaving a greater crowd clamoring outside. 

A centurion kept the entrance with a guard drawn up 
full armed under the beautiful marble battlements. The 
sun struck the soldiers fervidly on helm and shield; but 
they kept their ranks indifEerent alike to its dazzle and to 
the mouthings of the rabble. Through the open bronze 
gates a current of citizens poured in, while a much lesser 
one poured out. 

" What is going on ?" one of the Galileans asked an out- 
comer. 

" Nothing," was the reply. " The rabbis are before the 
door of the palace asking to see Pilate. He has refused to 
come out. They have sent one to tell him they will not 
go away till he has heard them. They are waiting." 

" Let us go in," said Ben-Hur, in his quiet way, seeing 
what his companions probably did not, that there was not 
only a disagreement between the suitors and the governor, 
but an issue joined, and a serious question as to who should 
have his will. 

Inside the gate there was a row of trees in leaf, with seats 
under them. The people, whether going or coming, care- 
fully avoided the shade cast gratefully upon the white, 
clean-swept pavement ; for, strange as it may seem, a rab- 
binical ordinance, alleged to have been derived from the 
law, permitted no green thing to be grown within the walls 
of Jerusalem. Even the wise king, it was said, wanting a 
garden for his Egyptian bride, was constrained to found it 
down in the meeting-place of the valleys above En-rogel. 

Through the tree-tops shone the outer fronts of the pal- 
ace. Turning to the right, the party proceeded a short dis- 



428 BENHUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

tance to a spacious square, on the west side of which stood 
the residence of the governor. An excited multitude filled 
the square. Every face was directed towards a portico built 
over a broad doorway which was closed. Under the por- 
tico there was another array of legionaries. 

The throng was so close the friends could not well have 
advanced if such had been their desire ; they remained there- 
fore in the rear, observers of what was going on. About 
the portico they could see the high turbans of the rabbis, 
whose impatience communicated at times to the mass be- 
hind them ; a cry was frequent to the effect " Pilate, if thou 
be a governor, come forth, come forth 1" 

Once a man coming out pushed through the crowd, his 
face red with anger. 

" Israel is of no account here," he said, in a loud voice. 
"On this holy ground we are no better than dogs of Rome." 

" Will he not come out, think you ?" 

" Come ? Has he not thrice refused ?" 

" What will the rabbis do ?" 

" As at Caesarea — camp here till he gives them ear." 

" He will not dare touch the treasure, will he ?" asked one 
of the Glalileans. 

" Who can say ? Did not a Roman profane the Holy of 
Holies? Is there anything sacred from Romans?" 

An hour passed, and though Pilate deigned them no an- 
swer, the rabbis and crowd remained. Noon came, bring- 
ing a shower from the west, but no change in the situation, 
except that the multitude was larger and much noisier, and 
the feeling more decidedly angry. The shouting was al- 
most continuous. Come forth, come forth! The cry was 
sometimes with disrespectful variations. Meanwhile Ben- 
Hur held his Galilean friends together. He judged the 
pride of the Roman would eventually get the better of his 
discretion, and that the end could not be far off. Pilate 
was but waiting for the people to furnish him an excuse 
for resort to violence. 

And at last the end came. In the midst of the as- 
semblage there was heard the sound of blows, succeeded 
instantly by yells of pain and rage, and a most furious 
commotion. The venerable men in front of the portico 



BExV-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 429 

faced about aghast. The common pebple in the rear at 
first pushed forward ; in the centre, the effort was to get 
out ; and for a short time the pressure of opposing forces 
was terrible. A thousand voices made inquiry, raised all 
at once ; as no one had time to answer, the surprise speedily 
became a panic. 

Ben-Hur kept his senses. 

" You cannot see," he said to one of the Galileans. 

" No." 

" I will raise you up." 

He caught the man about the middle, and lifted him 
bodily. 

" What is it ?" 

" I see now," said the man. " There are some armed 
with clubs, and they are beating the people. They are 
dressed like Jews." 

" Who are they ?" 

*' Romans, as the Lord liveth! Eomans in disguise. 
Their clubs fly like flails! There, I saw a rabbi struck 
down — an old man ! They spare nobody !" 

Ben-Hur let the man down. 

" Men of Galilee," he said, " it is a trick of Pilate's. 
Now, will you do what I say, we will get even with the 
club-men." 

The Galilean spirit arose. 

" Yes, yes 1" they answered. 

" Let us go back to the trees by the gate, and we may 
find the planting of Herod, though unlawful, has some good 
in it after all. Come 1" 

They ran back all of them fast as they could ; and, by 
throwing their united weight upon the limbs, tore them 
from the trunks. In a brief time they, too, were armed. 
Returning, at the comer of the square they met the crowd 
rushing madly for the gate. Behind, the clamor continued 
— a medley of shrieks, groans, and execrations. 

" To the wall 1" Ben-Hur shouted. " To the wall 1— and 
let the herd go by 1" 

So, clinging to the masonry at their right hand, they es- 
caped the might of the rush, and little by little made head- 
way until, at last, the square was reached. 



430 BEN-HUB: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

" Keep together now, and follow me T' 

By this time Ben-Har's leadership was perfect; and as 
he pushed into the seething moh his party closed after him 
in a hody. And when the Romans, clubbing the people 
and making merry as they struck them down, came hand 
to hand with the Galileans, lithe of limb, eager for the fray, 
and equally armed, they were in turn surprised. Then the 
shouting was close and fierce ; the crash of sticks rapid and 
deadly; the advance furious as hate could make it. No 
one performed his part as well as Ben-Hur, whose training 
served him admirably ; for, not merely he knew to strike 
and guard ; his long arm, perfect action, and incomparable 
strength helped him, also, to success in every encounter. 
He was at the same time fighting-man and leader. The 
club he wielded was of goodly length and weighty, so he 
had need to strike a man but once. He seemed, more- 
over, to have eyes for each combat of his friends, and the 
faculty of being at the right moment exactly where he was 
most needed. In his fighting cry there were inspiration for 
his party and alarm for his enemies. Thus surprised and 
equally matched, the Romans at first retired, but finally 
turned their backs and fled to the portico. The impetuous 
Cralileans would have pursued them to the steps, but Ben- 
Hur wisely restrained them. 

" Stay, my men !" he said. " The centurion yonder is 
coming with the guard. They have swords and shields ; we 
cannot fight them. We have done well ; let us get back and 
out of the gate while we may." 

They obeyed him, though slowly ; for they had frequent- 
ly to step over their countrymen lying where they had been 
felled; some writhing and groaning, some praying help, 
others mute as the dead. But the fallen were not all 
Jews. In that there was consolation. 

The centurion shouted to them as they went off ; Ben- 
Hur laughed at him, and replied in his own tongue, " If we 
are dogs of Israel, you are jackals of Rome. Remain here, 
and we will come again." 

The Galileans cheered, and laughing went on. 

Outside the gate there was a multitude the like of which 
BeD'Hnr had never seen, not even in the circus at Antiocb. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 431 

The house-tops, the streets, the slope of the hill, appeared 
densely covered with people wailing and praying. The air 
was filled with their cries and imprecations. 

The party were permitted to pass without challenge by 
the outer guard. But hardly were they out before the cen- 
turion in charge at the portico appeared, and in the gate- 
way called to Ben-Hur, 

** Ho, insolent ! Art thou a Roman or a Jew ?" 

Ben-Hur answered, "I am a son of Judah, born here. 
What wouldst thou with me ?" 

" Stay and fight," 

" Singly ?" 

" As thou wilt !" 

Ben-Hur laughed derisively. 

" O brave Roman ! Worthy son of the bastard Roman 
Jove I I have no arms." 

" Thou shalt have mine," the centurion answered. " I 
will borrow of the guard here." 

The people in hearing of the colloquy became silent; 
and from them the hush spread afar. But lately Ben-Hur 
had beaten a Roman under the eyes of Antioch and the 
Farther East ; now, could he beat another one under the 
eyes of Jerusalem, the honor might be vastly profitable to 
the cause of the New King. He did not hesitate. Going 
frankly to the centurion, he said, " I am willing. Lend me 
thy sword and shield." 

*' And the helm and breastplate ?" asked the Roman. 

" Keep them. They might not fit me." 

The arms were as frankly delivered, and directly the cen- 
turion was ready. All this time the soldiers in rank close 
^y the gate never moved ; they simply listened. As to the 
multitude, only when the combatants advanced to begin the 
fight the question sped from mouth to mouth, "Who is 
he ?" And no one knew. 

Now the Roman supremacy in arms lay in three things 
— submission to discipline, the legionary formation of bat- 
tle, and a peculiar use of the short sword. In combat, 
they never struck or cut ; from first to last they thrust — 
they advanced thrusting, they retired thrusting; and gen- 
erally their aim was at the foeman's face. AH this was 



432 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

well known to Ben-Hur. As they were about to engage 
he said, 

" I told thee I was a son of Jadah ; but I did not tell 
that I am lanista-taught. Defend thyself 1" 

At the last word Ben-Hur closed with his antagonist. A 
moment, standing foot to foot, they glared at each other 
over the rims of their embossed shields ; then the Roman 
pushed forward and feinted an under -thmst. The Jew 
laughed at him. A thrust at the face followed. The Jew 
stepped lightly to the left ; quick as the thrust was, the step 
was quicker. Under the lifted arm of the foe he slid his 
shield, advancing it until the sword and sword -arm were 
both caught on its upper surface ; another step, this time 
forward and left, and the man's whole right side was offered 
to the point. The centurion fell heavily on his breast, clang- 
ing the pavement, and Ben-Hur had won. With his foot 
upon his enemy's back, he raised his shield overhead after 
a gladiatorial custom, and saluted the imperturbable soldiers 
by the 'gate. 

When the people realized the victory they behaved like 
mad. On the houses far as the Xystus, fast as the word 
could fly, they waved their shawls and handkerchiefs and 
shouted ; and if he had consented, the Galileans would have 
carried Ben-Hur off upon their shoulders. 

To a petty oflficer who then advanced from the gate he 
said, " Thy comrade died like a soldier. I leave him unde- 
spoiled. Only his sword and shield are mine." 

With that, he walked away. Off a little he spoke to the 
Galileans. 

" Brethren, you have behaved well. Let us now separate, 
lest we be pursued. Meet me to-night at the khan in Beth- 
any. I have something to propose to you of great interest 
to Israel." 

" Who are you ?" they asked him. 

" A son of Judah," he answered, simply. 

A throng eager to see him surged around the party. 

" Will you come to Bethany ?" he asked. 

" Yes, we will come." 

"Then bring with you this sword and shield that I may 
know jou." 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 433 

Pushing brusquely through the increasing crowd, he 
speedily disappeared. 

At the instance of Pilate, the people went up from the 
city, and carried off their dead and wounded, and there was 
much mourning for them ; but the grief was greatly light- 
ened by the victory of the unknown champion, who was 
everywhere sought, and by every one extolled. The fainting 
spirit of the nation was revived by the brave deed ; inso- 
much that in the streets and up in the Temple even, amidst 
the solemnities of the feast, old tales of the Maccabees were 
told again, and thousands shook their heads whispering 
wisely, 

" A little longer, only a little longer, brethren, and Israel 
will come to her own. Let there be faith in the Lord, and 
patience." 

In such manner Ben-Hur obtained hold on Galilee, and 
paved the way to greater services in the cause of the King 
Who Was Coming. 

And with what result we shall see. 
28 



434 BEX-HUB: A TALE OF THE CHBIST. 



BOOK SEVENTR 



" And, waking, I beheld her there 
Sea-dreaming in the moted air, 
A siren lithe and debonair, 
With wristlets woven of scarlet weeds, 
And oblong lucent amber beads 
Ot sea-kelp shining in her hair." 

Thokas Bailet Aldrich. 



Chapter I. 

The meeting took place in the khan of Bethany as ap- 
pointed. Thence Ben-Hur went with the Galileans into 
their country, where his exploits up in the old Market-place 
gave him fame and influence. Before the winter was gone 
he raised three legions, and organized them after the Roman 
pattern. He could have had as many more, for the martial 
spirit of that gallant people never slept. The proceeding, 
however, required careful guarding as against both Rome 
and Herod Antipas. Contenting himself for the present 
with the three, he strove to train and educate them for sys- 
tematic action. For that purpose he carried the officers 
over into the lava-beds of Trachonitis, and taught them the 
use of arms, particularly the javelin and sword, and the ma- 
ncEUvring peculiar to the legionary formation ; after which 
he sent them home as teachers. And soon the training be- 
came a pastime of the people. 

As may be thought, the task called for patience, skill, 
2eal, faith, and devotion on his part — qualities into which 
the power of inspiring others in matters of difficulty is al- 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 435. 

ways resolvable ; and never man possessed them in greater 
degree or used them to better effect. How he labored! 
And with utter denial of self ! Yet withal he would have 
failed but for the support he had from Simonides, who fur- 
nished him arms and money, and from Ilderim, who kept 
watch and brought him supplies. And still he would have 
failed but for the genius of the Galileans. 

Under that name were comprehended the four tribes — 
Asher, Zebulon, Issachar, and Naphthali — and the districts 
originally set apart to them. The Jew bom in sight of the 
Temple despised these brethren of the north ; but the Tal- 
mud itself has said, "The Galilean loves honor, and the Jew 
money." 

Hating Rome fervidly as they loved their own country, 
in everv revolt thev were first in the field and last to leave 
it. One hundred and fifty thousand Galilean youths per- 
ished in the final war with Eo^ie. For the great festal days 
they went up to Jerusalem marching and camping liRe ar- 
mies ; yet they were liberal in sentiment, and even tolerant 
to heathenism. In Herod's beautiful cities, which were Ro- 
man in all things, in Sepphoris and Tiberias especially, they 
took pride, and in the building them gave loyal support. 
They had for fellow-citizens men from the outside world 
everywhere, and lived in peace with them. To the glory of 
the Hebrew name they contributed poets like the singer of 
the Song of Songs, and prophets like Hosea. 

Upon such a people, so quick, so proud, so brave, so de- 
voted, so imaginative, a tale like that of the coming of the 
King was all-powerful. That he was coming to put Rome 
down would have been sufficient to enlist them in the scheme 
proposed by Ben-Hur ; but when, besides, they were assured 
he was to rule the world, more mighty than Caesar, more 
magnificent than Solomon, and that the rule was to last for- 
ever, the appeal was irresistible, and they vowed themselves 
to the cause body and soul. They asked Ben-Hur his au- 
thority for the sayings, and he quoted the prophets, and 
told them of Balthasar in waiting over in Antioch; and 
they were satisfied, for it was the old much-loved legend of 
the Messiah, familiar to them almost as the name of the 
Lord; the long -cherished dream with a tim^ fi^^^Vst^^ak 



436 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHJRIST. 

realization. The King was not merely coming now ; he was 
at band. 

So with Ben-Hur the winter months rolled by, and spring 
came, with gladdening showers blown over from the sum- 
mering sea in the west ; and by that time so earnestly and 
successfully had he toiled that he could say to himseUP and 
his followers, " Let the good King come. He has only to 
tell us where he will have his throne set up. We have the 
sword-hands to keep it for him." 

And in all his dealings with the many men they knew 
him only as a son of Judah, and by that name. 

4c * * 4e * 4c 

One evening, over in Trachonitis, Ben-Hur was sitting 
with some of his Galileans at the mouth of the cave in 
which he quartered, when an Arab courier rode to him, and 
delivered a letter. Breaking the package, he read, 

" Jerusalem, Ntgan IV. 

*' A prophet has appeared who men say is Elias. He has been in 
the wilderness for years, and to our eyes he is a prophet ; and such 
also is his speech, the burden of which is of one much greater than 
himself, who, he says, is to come presently, and for whom he is now 
waiting on the eastern shore of the River Jordan. I have been to see 
and hear him, and the one he is waiting for is certainly the King you 
are awaiting. Gome and judge for yourself. 

" All Jerusalem is going out to the prophet, and with many people 
else the shore on which he abides is like Mount Olivet in the last days 
of the Passover. Malluch."* 

Ben-Hur's face flushed with joy. 

" By this word, O my friends," he said — " by this word, 
our waiting is at end. The herald of the King has appeared 
and announced him." 

Upon hearing the letter read, they also rejoiced at the 
promise it held out. 

" Get ready now," he added, " and in the morning set 
your faces homeward; when arrived there, send word to 
those under you, and bid them be ready to assemble as I 
may direct. For myself and you, I will go see if the King 
be indeed at hand, and send you report. Let us, in the 
meantime, live in the pleasure of the promise." 

Going into the cave, he addressed a letter to Ilderim, and 
. another to Simonidea, ©Lving notice of the news received, 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST/ 437 

and of his puipose to go up immediately to Jerusalem. The 
letters he despatched by swift messengers. When night 
fell, and the stars of direction came out, he mounted, and 
with an Arab guide set out for the Jordan, intending to 
strike the track of the caravans betweeen Rabbath-Ammon 
and Damascus. 

The guide was sure, and Aldebaran svf ift ; so by midnight 
the two were out of the lava fastness speeding southward. 



Chapter II. 

It was Ben-Hur's purpose to turn aside at the break of 
day, and find a safe place in which to rest ; but the dawn 
overtook him while out in the Desert, and he kept on, the 
guide promising to bring him afterwhile to a vale shut in 
by great rocks, where there were a spring, some mulberry- 
trees, and herbage in plenty for the horses. 

As he rode thinking of the wondrous events so soon to 
happen, and of the changes they were to bring about in the 
affairs of men and nations, the guide, ever on the alert, call- 
ed attention to an appearance of strangers behind them. 
Everywhere around the Desert stretched away in waves of 
sand, slowly yellowing in the growing light, and without 
any green thing visible. Over on the left, but still far off, 
a range of low mountains extended, apparently interminable. 
In the vacancy of such a waste an object in motion could 
not long continue a mystery. 

" It is a camel with riders," the guide said, directly. 

" Are there others behind ?" said Ben-Hur. 

"It is alone. No, there is a man on horseback — the 
driver, probably." 

A little later Ben-Hur himself could see the camel was 
white and unusually large, reminding him of the wonderful 
animal he had seen bring Balthasar and Iras to the fountain 
in the Grove of Daphne. There could be no other like it. 
Thinking then of the fair Egyptian, insensibly his gait be- 
came slower, and at length fell into the merest loiter, until 
finally he could discern a curtained houdah, and two persona 



438 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

seated within it. If they were Balthasar and Iras ^ Should 
he make himself known to them ? But it could not be : 
this was the Desert — and they were alone. But while he 
debated the question the long swinging stride of the camel 
brought its riders up to him. He heard the ringing of the 
tiny bells, and beheld the rich housings which had been so 
attractive to the crowd at the Castalian fount. He beheld 
also the Ethiopian, always attendant upon the Egyptians. 
The tall brute stopped close by his horse, and Ben-Hur, 
looking up, lo ! Iras herself under the raised curtain look- 
ing down at him, her great swimming eyes bright with as- 
tonishment and inquiry ! 

" The blessing of the true God upon you !" said Baltha- 
sar, in his tremulous voice. 

" And to thee and thine be the peace of the Lord," Ben- 
Hur replied. 

" My eyes are weak with years," said Balthasar ; " but 
they approve you that son of Hur whom lately I knew an 
honored guest in the tent of Uderim the Generous." 

" And thou art that Balthasar, the wise Egyptian, whose 
speech concerning certain holy things in expectation is hav- 
ing so much to do with the finding me in this waste place. 
What dost thou here ?" 

" He is never alone who is where God is — and God is 
everywhere," Balthasar answered, gravely ; " but in the sense 
of your asking, there is a caravan short way behind us go- 
ing to Alexandria ; and as it is to pass through Jerusalem, I 
thought best to avail myself of its company as far as the 
Holy City, whither I am journeying. This morning, how- 
ever, in discontent with its slow movement — slower because 
of a Roman cohort in attendance upon it — we rose early, 
and ventured thus far in advance. As to robbers along the 
way, we are not afraid, for I have here a signet of Sheik 
Ilderim ; against beasts of prey, God is our sufficient tmst." 

Ben-Hur bowed and said, " The good sheik's signet is a 
safeguard wherever the wilderness extends, and the lion shall 
be swift that overtakes this king of his kind." 

He patted the neck of the camel as he spoke. 

"Fet,"said Iras, witti a s.m\\^ ^\i\a\v was not lost upon 
the jouth, whose eyes, \\» mu^X. \>^ ^^rnxXXa^^V^^ ^-^^xaL 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 439 

times turned to her during the interchange of speeches with 
the elder — " Yet even he would be better if his fast were 
broken. Kings have hunger and headaches. If you be, 
indeed, the Ben-Hur of whom my father has spoken, and 
whom it was my pleasure to have known as well, you will 
be happy, I am sure, to show us some near path to living 
water, that with its sparkle we may grace a morning's meal 
in the Desert." 

Ben-Hur, nothing loath, hastened to answer. 

"Fair Egyptian, I give you sympathy. Can you bear 
suffering a little longer, we will find the spring you ask for, 
and I promise that its draught shall be as sweet and cool- 
ing as that of the more famous Oastalia. With leave, we 
will make haste." 

"I give you the blessing of the thirsty," she replied; 
" and offer you in return a bit of bread from the city ovens, 
dipped in fresh butter from the dewy meadows of Damas- 
cus." 

" A most rare favor ! Let us go on." 

So saying, Ben-Hur rode forward with the guide, one of 
the inconveniences of travelling with camels being that it is 
necessarily an interdiction of polite conversation. 

Afterwhile the party came to a shallow wady, down 
which, turning to the right hand, the guide led them. The 
bed of the cut was somewhat soft from recent rains, and 
quite bold in its descent. Momentarily, however, it widened ; 
and erelong the sides became bluffs ribbed with rocks much 
scarred by floods rushing to lower depths ahead. Finally, 
from a narrow passage, the travellers entered a spreading 
vale which was very delightful ; but come upon suddenly 
from the yellow, unrelieved, verdureless plain, it had the 
effect of a freshly discovered Paradise. The water-channels 
winding here and there, definable by crisp white shingling, 
appeared like threads tangled among islands green with 
grasses and fringed with reeds. Up from the final depths 
of the valley of the Jordan some venturous oleanders had 
crept, and with their large bloom now starred the sunken 
place. One palm-tree arose in royal assertion. The bases 
of the boundary-walls were cloaked with clambering vines, 
and under a leaning cliff over on the left the mulberry 



440 BEN-UUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

grove had planted itself, proclaiming the spring which the 
party were seeking. And thither the guide conducted them, 
careless of whistling partridges and lesser birds of brighter 
hues roused whirring from the reedy coverts. 

The water started from a crack in the cliff which some 
loving hand had enlarged into an arched cavity. Graven 
over it in bold Hebraic letters was the word God. The 
graver had no doubt drunk there, and tarried many days, 
and given thanks in that durable form. From the arch the 
stream ran merrily over a flag spotted with bright moss, and 
leaped into a pool glassy clear ; thence it stole away between 
grassy banks, nursing the trees before it vanished in the 
thirsty sand. A few narrow paths were noticeable about 
the margin of the pool ; otherwise the space around was 
untrodden turf, at sight of which the guide was assured of 
rest free from intrusion by men. The horses were presently 
turned loose, and from the kneeling camel the Ethiopian 
assisted Balthasar and Iras ; whereupon the old man, turn- 
ing his face to the east, crossed his hands reverently upon 
his breast and prayed. 

" Bring me a cup," Iras said, with some impatience. 

From the houdah the slave brought her a crystal goblet ; 
then she said to Ben-Hur, 

" I will be your servant at the fountain." 

They walked to the pool together. He would have dipped 
the water for her, but she refused his offer, and kneeling, 
held the cup to be filled by the stream itself ; nor yet con- 
tent, when it was cooled and overrunning, she tendered him 
the first draught. 

" No," he said, putting the graceful hand aside, and see- 
ing only the large eyes half hidden beneath the arches of 
the upraised brows, " be the service mine, I pray." 

She persisted in having her way. 

" In my country, O son of Hur, we have a saying, * Better 
a cup-bearer to the fortunate than minister to a king.' " 

" Fortunate !" he said. 

There were both surprise and inquiry in the tone of his 
voice and in his look, and she said quickly, 

" The gods give us success as a sign by which we may 
know them on our side. Were you not winner in the Circus ?" 



BEK-HUR: A TALE OP THE CHRIST. 441 

His cheeks began to flush. 

*^ That was one sign. There is another. In a combat 
with swords you slew a Roman." 

The flush deepened — not so much for the triumphs them- 
selves as the flattery there was in the thought that she had 
followed his career with interest. A moment, and the pleas- 
ure was succeeded by a reflection. The combat, he knew, 
was matter of report throughout the East ; but the name of 
the victor had been committed to a very few — Malluch, 
Ilderim, and Simonides. Could they have made a conlidanto 
of the woman ? So with wonder and gratification he was 
confused ; and seeing it, she arose and said, holding the cup 
over the pool, 

" O gods of Egypt I I give thanks for a hero discovered 
— thanks that the victim in the Palace of Idernee was not 
my king of men. And so, O holy gods, I pour and drink." 

Part of the contents of the cup she returned to the stream, 
the rest she drank. When she took the crystal from her 
lips, she laughed at him. 

" son of Hur, is it a fashion of the very brave to be so 
easily overcome by a woman ? Take the cup now, and see 
if you cannot find a happy word in it for me ?" 

He took the cup, and stooped to refill it. 

** A son of Israel has no gods whom he can libate," he 
said, playing with the water to hide his amazement, now 
greater than before. What more did the Egyptian know 
about him ? Had she been told of his relations with Si- 
monides? And there was the treaty with Ilderim — had she 
knowledge of that also? He was struck with mistrust. 
Somebody had betrayed his secrets, and they were serious. 
And, besides, he was going to Jerusalem, just then of all the 
world the place where such intelligence possessed by an 
enemy might be most dangerous to him, his associates, and 
the cause. But was she an enemy ? It is well for us that, 
while writing is slow, thought is instantaneous. When the 
cup was fairly cooled, he filled it and arose, saying, with in- 
difference well affected, 

'^ Most fair, were I an Egyptian or a Greek or a Roman, 
I would say " — he raised the goblet overhead as he spoke — 
** O ye better gods I I give thanks that there are yet left 



442 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

to the world, despite its wrongs and sufferings, the charm of 
beaaty and the solace of love, and I drink to her who best 
represents them — ^to Iras, loveliest of the daughters of the 
Nile!" 

She laid her hand softly upon his shoulder. 

" You have offended against the law. The gods you have 
drunk to are false gods. Why shall I not tell the rabbis on 
your 

" Oh !" he replied, laughing, " that is very little to tell for 
one who knows so much else that is really important." 

" I will go further — I will go to the little Jewess who 
makes the roses grow and the shadows flame in the house 
of the great merchant over in Antioch. To the rabbis I 
will accuse you of impenitence; to her — " 

" Well, to her ?" 

" I will repeat what you have said to me under the lifted 
cup, with the gods for witnesses." 

He was still a moment, as if waiting for the Egyptian to 
go on. With quickened fancy he saw Esther at her father's 
side listening to the despatches he had forwarded — some- 
times reading them. In her presence he had told Simonides 
the story of the affair in the Palace of Idemee. She and 
Iras were acquainted ; this one was shrewd and worldly ; the 
other was simple and affectionate, and therefore easily won. 
Simonides could not have broken faith — nor Ilderim — for 
if not held by honor, there was no one, unless it might be 
himself, to whom the consequences of exposure were more 
serious and certain. Could Esther have been the Egyptian's 
informant? He did not accuse her; yet a suspicion was 
sown with the thought, and suspicions, as we all know, are 
weeds of the mind which grow of themselves, and most 
rapidly when least wanted. Before he could answer the al- 
lusion to the little Jewess, Balthasar came to the pool. 

" We are greatly indebted to you, son of Hur," he said, 
in his grave manner. "This vale is very beautiful; the 
grass, the trees, the shade, invite us to stay and rest, and the 
spring here has the sparkle of diamonds in motion, and 
sings to me of a loving God. It is not enough to thank 
you for the enjoyment we find ; come sit with us, and taste 
our bread." 



BEN-HUR; A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 443 

" Suffer me first to serve you." 

With that Ben-Hur filled the goblet, and gave it to Bal- 
thasar, who lifted his eyes in thanksgiving. 

Immediately the slave brought napkins ; and after laving 
their hands and drying them, the three seated themselves in 
Eastern style under the tent which years before had served 
the Wise Men at the meeting in the Desert. And they ate 
heartily of the good things taken from the camel's pack. 



Chapter III. 

The tent was cosily pitched beneath a tree where the 
gurgle of the stream was constantly in ear. Overhead the 
broad leaves hung motionless on their stems; the delicate 
reed-stalks off in the pearly haze stood up arrowy-straight; 
occasionally a home-returning bee shot humming athwart 
the shade, and a partridge creeping from the sedge drank, 
whistled to his mate, and ran away. The restfulness of the 
vale, the freshness of the air, the garden beauty, the Sabbath 
stillness, seemed to have affected the spirits of the elder 
Egyptian ; his voice, gestures, and whole manner were un- 
usually gentle ; and often as he bent his eyes upon Ben-Hur 
conversing with Iras, they softened with pity. 

" When we overtook you, son of Hur," he said, at the 
conclusion of the repast, " it seemed your face was also 
turned towards Jerusalem. May I ask, without offence, if 
you are going so far ?" 

" I am going to the Holy City." 

" For the great need I have to spare myself prolonged 
toil, I will further ask you, Is there a shorter road than 
that by Rabbath-Ammon ?" 

" A rougher route, but shorter, lies by Gerasa and Rabbath- 
Gilead. It is the one I design taking." 

" I am impatient," said Balthasar. " Latterly my sleep 
has been visited by dreams — or rather by the same dream 
in repetition. A voice — it is nothing more — comes and tells 
me, * Haste — arise ! He whom thou hast bo long awaited is 
at hand.' " 



444 BEN-HUB: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

" You mean he that is to be King of the Jews ?" Ben-Hur 
asked, gazing at the Egyptian in wonder. 

" Even so." 

" Then you have heard nothing of him ?" 

" Nothing, except the words of the voice in the dream." 

" Here, then, are tidings to make you glad as they made 
me." 

From his gown Ben-Hur drew the letter received from 
Malluch. The hand the Egyptian held out trembled vio- 
lently. He read aloud, and as he read his feelings increased ; 
the limp veins in his neck swelled and throbbed. At the 
conclusion he raised his suffused eyes in thanksgiving and 
prayer. He asked no questions, yet had no doubts. 

"Thou hast been very good to me, O God," he said. 
" Give me, I pray thee, to see the Saviour again, and wor- 
ship him, and thy servant will be ready to go in peace." 

The words, the manner, the singular personality of the 
simple prayer, touched Ben-Hur with a sensation new and 
abiding. God never seemed so actual and so near by; it 
was as if he were there bending over them or sitting at 
their side — a Friend whose favors were to be had by the 
most unceremonious asking — a Father to whom all his chil- 
dren were alike in love — Father, not more of the Jew than 
of the Gentile — the universal Father, who needed no inter- 
mediates, no rabbis, no priests, no teachers. The idea that 
such a God might send mankind a Saviour instead of a 
king appeared to Ben-Hur in a light not merely new, but 
80 plain that he could almost discern both the greater want 
of such a gift and its greater consistency with the nature 
of such a Deity. So he could not resist asking, 

" Now that he has come, O Balthasar, you still think he 
is to be a Saviour, and not a king ?" 

Balthasar gave him a look thoughtful as it was tender. 

"How shall I understand you?" he asked, in return. 
" The Spirit, which was the Star that was my guide of old, 
has not appeared to me since I met you in the tent of the 
good sheik ; that is to say, I have not seen or heard it as 
formerly. I believe the voice that spoke to me in my 
dreams was it ; but other than that I have no revelation." 

"I will recall tbe difteteiiGft between us," said Ben-Hur, 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 445 

with deference. " You were of opinion that he would be a 
king, but not as Caesar is; you thought his sovereignty 
would be spiritual, not of the world." 

" Oh yes," the Egyptian answered ; " and I am of the 
same opinion now. I see the divei'gence in our faith. 
You are going to meet a king of men, I a Saviour of souls." 

He paused with the look often seen when people are 
struggling, with introverted effort, to disentangle a thought 
which is either too high for quick discernment or too subtle 
for simple expression. 

" Let me try, O son of Hur," he said, directly, " and help 
you to a clear understanding of my belief ; then it may be, 
seeing how the spiritual kingdom I expect him to set up 
can be more excellent in every sense than anything of mere 
CsBsarean splendor, you will better understand the reason 
of the interest I take in the mysterious person we are going 
to welcome. 

" I cannot tell you when the idea of a Soul in every man 
had its origin. Most likely the first parents brought it with 
them out of the garden in which they had their first dwell- 
ing. We all do know, however, that it has never perished 
entirely out of mind. By some peoples it was lost, but not 
by all ; in some ages it dulled and faded ; in others it was 
overwhelmed with doubts; but, in great goodness, God 
kept sending us at intervals mighty intellects to argue it 
back to faith and hope. 

" Why should there be a Soul in every man ? Look, O 
son of Hur — for one moment look at the necessity of such 
a device. To lie down and die, and be no more — no more 
forever — time never was when man wished for such an end ; 
nor has the man ever been who did not in his heart prom- 
ise himself something better. The monuments of the nations 
are all protests against nothingness after death ; so are stat- 
ues and inscriptions; so is history. The greatest of our 
Egyptian kings had his effigy cut out of a hill of solid 
rock. Day aJter day he went with a host in chariots to 
see the work ; at last it was finished, never eflSgy so grand, 
so enduring: it looked like him — the features were his, 
faithful even in expression. Now may we not think of him 
saying in that moment of pride, * Let Death come ; there 



446 BEN-HUH: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

is an after-life for me !' He had his wish. The statue is 
there yet. 

"But what is the after-life he thus secured? Only a 
recollection by men — a glory unsubstantial as moonshine 
on the brow of the great bust : a story in stone — nothing 
more. Meantime what has become of the king? There is 
an embalmed body up in the royal tombs which once was 
his — an eflSgy not so fair to look at as the other out in the 
Desert. But where, O son of Hur, where is the king him- 
self ? Is he fallen into nothingness ? Two thousand years 
have gone since he was a man alive as you and I are. Was 
his last breath the end of him ? 

" To say yes would be to accuse God ; let us rather ac- 
cept his better plan of attaining life after death for us — 
actual life, I mean — ^the something more than a place in 
mortal memory; life with going and coming, with sensa- 
tion, with knowledge, with power and all appreciation; 
life eternal in term though it may be with changes of con- 
dition. 

" Ask you what God's plan is ? The gift of a Soul to 
each of us at birth, with this simple law — there shall be no 
immortality except through the Soul. In that law see the 
necessity of which I spoke. 

** Let us turn from the necessity now. A word as to the 
pleasure there is in the thought of a Soul in each of us. 
In the first place, it robs death of its terrors by making 
dying a change for the better, and burial but the planting 
of a seed from which there will spring a new life. In the 
next place, behold me as I am — weak, weary, old, shrunken 
in body, and graceless ; look at my wrinkled face, think of 
my failing senses, listen to ray shrilled voice. Ah ! what 
happiness to me in the promise that when the tomb opens, 
as soon it will, to receive the worn -out husk I call my- 
self, the now viewless doors of the universe, which is but 
the palace of God, will swing wide ajar to receive me, a lib- 
erated immortal Soul ! 

*' I would I could tell the ecstasy there must be in that 
life to come ! Do not say I know nothing about it. This 
much I know, and it is enough for me — the being a Soul 
implies conditions of divine superiority. In such a being 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHEIST. 447 

there is no dust, nor any gross thing ; it must be finer than 
air, more impalpable than light, purer than essence — it is 
life in absolute purity. 

" What now, O son of Hur ? Knowing so much, shall I 
dispute with myself or you about the unnecessaries — about 
the form of my soul? Or where it is to abide? Or 
whether it eats and drinks? Or is winged, or wears this 
or that ? No. It is more becoming to trust in God. The 
beautiful in this world is all from his hand declaring the 
perfection of taste ; he is the author of all' form ; he clothes 
the lily, he colors the rose, he distils the dew-drop, he 
makes the music of nature ; in a word, he organized us for 
this life, and imposed its conditions ; and they are such 
guaranty to me that, trustful as a little child, I leave to him 
the organization of my Soul, and every arrangement for the 
life after death. I know he loves me." 

The good man stopped and drank, and the hand carry- 
ing the cup to his lips trembled; and both Iras and Ben- 
Hur shared his emotion and remained silent. Upon the 
latter a light was breaking. He was beginning to see, as 
never before, that there might be a spiritual kingdom of 
more import to men than any earthly empire; and that 
after all a Saviour would indeed be a more godly gift than 
the greatest king. 

"I might ask you now," said Balthasar, continuing, 
" whether this human life, so troubled and brief, is prefera- 
ble to the perfect and everlasting life designed for the Soul? 
But take the question, and think of it for yourself, formu- 
lating thus : Supposing both to be equally happy, is one 
hour more desirable than one year? From that then ad- 
vance to the final inquiry, what are threescore and ten 
years on earth to all eternity with God? By-and-by, son 
of Hur, thinking in such manner, you will be filled with 
the meaning of the fact I present you next, to me the most 
amazing of all events, and in its effects the most sorrowful ; 
it is that the very idea of life as a Soul is a light almost gone 
out in the world. Here and there, to be sure, a philosopher 
may be found who wiD talk to you of a Soul, likening it to 
a principle; but because philosophers take nothing upon 
faith, they will not go the length of admitting a Soul to bo 



448 BEX-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

a being, and on that acconnt its purpose is compressed dark- 
ness to tbem. 

*^ Everything animate has a mind measurable by its wants. 
Is there to you no meaning in the singularity that power in 
full degree to speculate upon the future was given to man 
alone? By the sign as I see it, God meant to make us 
know ourselves created for another and a better life, such 
being in fact the greatest need of our nature. But, alas! 
into what a habit the nations have fallen ! They live for 
the day, as if the present were the all in all, and go about 
saying, * There is no to-morrow after death ; or if there be, 
since we know nothing about it be it a care unto itself.' 
So when Death calls them, * Come,' they may not enter into 
enjoyment of the glorious after-life because of their unfit- 
ness. That is to say, the ultimate happiness of man was 
everlasting life in the society of God. Alas, O son of Hur, 
that I should say it ! but as well yon sleeping camel con- 
stant in such society as the holiest priests this day serving 
the highest altars in the most renowned temples. So much 
are men given to this lower earthly life ! So nearly have 
they forgotten that other which is to come ! 

" See now, I pray you, that which is to be saved to us. 

"For my part, speaking with the holiness of truth, I 
would not give one hour of life as a Soul for a thousand 
years of life as a man." 

Here the Egyptian seemed to become unconscious of 
companionship and fall away into abstraction. 

**This life has its problems," he said, "and there are 
men who spend their days trying to solve them ; but what 
are they to the problems of the hereafter ? What is there 
like knowing God ? Not a scroll of the mysteries, but the 
mysteries themselves would for that hour at least lie before 
me revealed; even the innermost and most awful — the 
power which now we shrink from thought of — which 
rimmed the void with shores, and lighted the darkness, and 
out of nothing appointed the universe. All places would 
be opened. I would be filled with divine knowledge; I 
would see all glories, taste all delights ; I would revel in 
being. And if, at the end of the hour, it should please 
God to tell me, * I take thee into my service forever,' the 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 449 

furthest limit of desire would be passed; after which the 
attainable ambitions of this life, and its joys of whatever 
kind, would not be so much as the tinkling of little bells." 

BaJthasar paused as if to recover from very ecstasy of 
feeling; and to Ben-Hur it seemed the speech had been 
the delivery of a Soul speaking for itself. 

" I pray pardon, son of Hur," the good man continued, 
with a bow the gravity of which was relieved by the tender 
look that followed it, " I meant to leave the life of a Soul, 
its conditions, pleasures, superiority, to your own reflectioq 
and finding out. The joy of the thought has betrayed me 
into much speech. I set out to show, though ever so 
faintly, the reason of ray faith. It grieves me that words 
are so weak. But help yourself to truth. Consider first 
the excellence of the existence which was reserved for us 
after death, and give heed to the feelings and impulses the 
thought is sure to awaken in you — heed them, I say, be- 
cause they are your own Soul astir, doing what it can to 
urge you in the right way. Consider next that the after- 
life has become so obscured as to justify calling it a lost 
light. If you find it, rejoice, O son of Hur — rejoice as I 
do, though in beggary of words. For then, besides the 
great gift which is to be saved to us, you will have found 
the need of a Saviour so infinitely greater than the need of 
a king ; and he we are going to meet will not longer hold 
place in your hope a warrior with a sword or a monarch 
with a crown. 

" A practical question presents itself — How shall we 
know him at sight ? If you continue in your belief as to 
his character — that he is to be a king as Herod was — of 
course you will keep on until you meet a man clothed in 
purple and with a sceptre. On the other hand, he I look 
for will be one poor, humble, undistinguished — a man in 
appearance as other men ; and the sign by which I will 
know him will be never so simple. He will offer to show 
me and all mankind the way to the eternal life ; the beau- 
tiful pure Life of the Soul." 

The company sat a moment in silence which was broken 
by Balthasar. 

" Let us arise now," he said — " let us arise and eat lorcr 
29 



450 BEN-flUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

ward again. What I have said has caused a return of im- 
patience to see him who is ever in my thought ; and if I 
seem to hurry you, O son of Hur — and you, my daughter 
— be that mv excuse." 

At his signal the slave brought them wine in a skin bot- 
tle ; and they poured and drank, and shaking the lap-cloths 
out arose. 

While the slave restored the tent and wares to the box 
under the houdah, and the Arab brought up the horses, the 
three principals laved themselves in the pool. 

In a little while they were retracing their steps back 
through the wady, intending to overtake the caravan if it 
had passed them by. 



Chapter IV. 

The caravan, stretched out upon the Desert, was very 
picturesque ; in motion, however, it was like a lazy serpent. 
By-and-by its stubborn dragging became intolerably irk- 
some to Balthasar, patient as he was ; so, at his suggestion, 
the party determined to go on by themselves. 

If the reader be young, or if he has yet a sympathetic 
recollection of the romanticisms of his youth, he will relish 
the pleasure with which Ben-Hur, riding near the camel of 
the Egyptians, gave a last look at the head of the straggling 
column almost out of sight on the shimmering plain. 

To be definite as may be, and perfectly confidential, 
Ben-Hnr found a certain charm in Iras's presence. If she 
looked down upon him from her high place, he made 
haste to get near her ; if she spoke to him, his heart beat 
out of its usual time. The desire to be agreeable to her 
was a constant impulse. Objects on the way, though ever 
so common, became interesting the moment she called at- 
tention to them ; a black swallow in the air pursued by her 
pointing finger went oflE in a halo ; if a bit of quartz or a 
flake of mica was seen to sparkle in the drab sand under 
kissing of the sun, at a word he turned aside and brought it 
to her ; and if she threw it away in disappointment, far 
from thinking oi tiie \.iou\A^ \v^ had been put to, he was 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 451 

sorry it proved so worthless, and kept a lookout for some- 
thing better— a ruby, perchance a diamond. So the pur- 
ple of the far mountains became intensely deep and rich if 
she distinguished it with an exclamation of praise; and 
when, now and then, the curtain of the houdah fell down, it 
seemed a sudden dulness had dropped from the sky bedrag- 
gling all the landscape. Thus disposed, yielding to the 
sweet influence, what shall save him from the dangers there 
are in days of the close companionship with the fair Egyp- 
tian incident to the solitary journey they were entered upon ? 

For that there is no logic in love, nor the least math- 
ematical element, it is simply natural that she shall fashion 
the result who has the wielding of the influence. 

To quicken the conclusion, there were signs, too, that she 
well knew the influence she was exercising over him. From 
some place under hand she had since morning drawn a caul 
of golden coins, and adjusted it so the gleaming strings fell 
over her forehead and upon her cheeks, blending lustrously 
with the flowing of her blue-black hair. From the same 
safe deposit she had also produced articles of jewelry — rings 
for finger and ear, bracelets, a necklace of pearls — also, a 
shawl embroidered with threads of fine gold — the effect of 
all which she softened with a scarf of Indian lace skilfully 
folded about her throat and shoulders. And so arrayed, 
she plied Ben-Hur with countless coquetries of speech and 
manner ; showering him with smiles ; laughing in flute-like 
tremolo — and all the while following him with glances, now 
melting-tender, now sparkling-bright. By such play An- 
tony was weaned from his glory ; yet she who wrought 
his ruin was really not half so beautiful as this her country- 
woman. 

And 80 to them the nooning came, and the evening. 

The sun at its going down behind a spur of the old 
Bashan, left the party halted by a pool of clear water of the 
rains out in the Abilene Desert. There the tent was pitched, 
the supper eaten, and preparations made for the night. 

The second watch was Ben-Hur's ; and he was standing, 
spear in hand, within arm-reach of the dozing camel, look- 
ing awhile at the stars, then over the veiled land. The 
stillness was intense ; only after long «i^^\\& ^ ^^vtccl V^^'dfi^ 



452 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

of wind would sough past, but without disturbing him, for 
yet in thought he entertained the Egyptian, recounting her 
chanAS, and sometimes debating how she came by his se- 
crets, the uses she might make of them, and the course he 
should pursue with her. And through all the debate Love 
stood off but a little way — a strong temptation, the stronger 
of a gleam of policy behind. At the very moment he was 
most inclined to yield to the allurement, a hand very fair 
even in the moonless gloaming was laid softly upon his 
shoulder. The touch thrilled him ; he started, turned — and 
she was there. 

" I thought you asleep," he said, presently. 

" Sleep is for old people and little children, and I came 
out to look at my friends, the stars in the south — ^those 
now holding the curtains of midnight over the Nile. But 
confess yourself surprised !" 

He took the hand which had fallen from his shoulder, and 
said, " Well, was it by an enemy ?" 

" Oh no ! To be an enemy is to hate, and hating is a sick- 
ness which Isis will not suffer to come near me. She kissed 
me, you should know, on the heart when I was a child." 

"Your speech does not sound in the least like your fa- 
ther's. Are you not of his faith ?" 

" I might have been " — and she laughed low — " I might 
have been had I seen what he has. I may be when I get 
old like him. There should be no religion for youth, only 
poetry and philosophy ; and no poetry except such as is the 
inspiration of wine and mirth and love, and no philosophy 
that does not nod excuse for follies which cannot outlive a 
season. My father's God is too awful for me. I failed to 
find him in the Grove of Daphne. He was never heard of as 
present in the atria of Rome. But, son of Hur, I have a wish." 

" A wish ! Where is he who could say it no ?" 

" I will try you." 

"Tell it then." 

" It is very simple. I wish to help you." 

She drew closer as she spoke. 

He laughed, and replied, lightly, "O Egypt] — I came 
near saying dear Egypt! — does not the sphinx abide in 
70ur country V 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 453 

" Well r 

" You are one of its riddles. Be merciful, and give me 
a little clew to help me understand you. In what do I 
need help? And how can )'ou help me?" 

She took her hand from him, and, turning to the camel, 
spoke to it endearingly, and patted its monstrous head as 
it were a thing of beauty. 

*^ O thou last and swiftest and stateliest of the herds of 
Job I Sometimes thou, too, goest stumbling, because the 
way is rough and stony and the burden grievous. How 
is it thou knowest the kind intent by a word, and always 
makest answer gratefully, though the help oflEered is from 
a woman ? I will kiss thee, thou royal brute !" — she stooped 
and touched its broad forehead with her lips, saying imme- 
diately, " because in thy intelligence there is no suspicion !" 

And Ben-Hur, restraining himself, said calmly, "The 
reproach has not failed its mark, O Egypt I I seem to say 
thee no ; may it not be because I am under seal of honor, 
and by my silence cover the lives and fortunes of others ?" 

" May be !" she said, quickly. " It is so." 

He shrank a step, and asked, his voice sharp with amaze- 
ment, " What all knowest thou ?" 

She answered, after a laugh, 

" Why do men deny that the senses of women are sharper 
than theirs ? Your face has been under my eyes all day. I 
had but to look at it to see you bore some weight in mind ; 
and to find the weight, what had I to do more than recall 
your debates with my father ? Son of Hur !" — she lowered 
her voice with singular dexterity, and, going nearer, spoke 
so her breath was warm upon his cheek — " son of Hur ! he 
thou art going to find is to be King of the Jews, is he not ?" 

His heart beat fast and hard. 

" A King of the Jews like Herod, only greater," she con- 
tinued. 

He looked away — into the night, up to the stars ; then 
his eyes met hers, and lingered there; and her breath was 
on his lips, so near was she. 

" Since morning," she said, further, " we have been hav- 
ing visions. Now if I tell you mine, will you serve me as 
well ? What ! silent still ?" 



454 BEN-HCR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

She pushed his hand away, and tonied as if to go ; but 
he caught her, and said, eagerly, " Stay — stay and speak !" 

She went back, and with her hand upon his shoulder, 
leaned against him ; and he put his arm around her, and 
drew her close, very close; and in the caress was the 
promise she asked. 

" Speak, and tell me thy visions, O Egypt, dear Egypt ! 
A prophet — nay, not the Tishbite, not even the Lawgiver — 
could have refused an asking of thine. I am at thy wilL 
Be merciful — merciful, I pray." 

The entreaty passed apparently unheard, for looking up 
and nestling in his embrace, she said, slowly, ** The vision 
which foDowed me was of magnificent war — war on land 
and sea — with clashing of arms and rush of armies, as if 
Caesar and Ppmpey were come again, and Octavius and 
Antony. A cloud of dust and ashes arose and covered 
the world, and Rome was not any more ; all dominion re- 
turned to the East ; out of the cloud issued another race of 
heroes ; and there were vaster satrapies and brighter crowns 
for giving away than were ever known. And, son of Hur, 
while the vision was passing, and after it was gone, I kept 
asking myself, "What shall he not have who served the 
King earliest and best?" 

Again Ben -Hur recoiled. The question was the very 
question which had been with him all day. Presently he 
fancied he had the clew he wanted. 

"So," he said, "I have you now. The satrapies and 
crowns are the things to whifch you would help me. I see, 
I see ! And there never was such queen as you would be, 
so shrewd, so beautiful, so royal — never ! But, alas, dear 
Egypt ! by the vision as you show it me the prizes are 
all of war, and you are but a woman, though Isis did kiss 
you on the heart. And crowns are starry gifts beyond 
your power of help, unless, indeed, you have a way to them 
more certain than that of the sword. If so, O Egypt, 
Egypt, show it me, and I will walk in it, if only for your sake." 

She removed his arm, and said, " Spread your cloak upon 
the sand — here, so I can rest against the camel. I will sit, 
and tell you a story which came down the Nile to Alex- 
andria, where 1 ta4 '\l?^ 



BEN.HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 455 

He did as she said, first planting the spear in the ground 
near by. 

" And what shall I do ?" he said, ruefully, when she was 
seated. ** In Alexandiia is it customary for the listeners to 
sit or stand?" 

From the comfortable place against the old domestic she 
answered, laughing, " The audiences of story-tellers are wil- 
ful, and sometimes they do as they please." 

Without more ado he stretched himself upon the sand, 
and put her arm about his neck. 

" I am ready," he said. 

And directly she began : 

HOW THE BEAUTIFUL GAME TO THE EARTH. 

" Tou must know, in the first place, that Isis was — and, for that mat- 
ter, she may yet be — the most beautiful of deities ; and Osiris, her hus- 
band, though wise and powerful, was sometimes stung with jealousy 
of her, for only in their loves are the gods like mortals. 

" The palace of the Divine Wife was of silver, crowning the tallest 
mountain in the moon, and thence she passed often to the sun, in the 
heart of which, a source of eternal light, Osiris kept his palace of gold 
too shining for men to look at. 

" One time — there are no days with the gods — while she was full 
pleasantly with him on the roof of the golden palace, she chanced to 
look, and afar, just on the line of the universe, saw Indra passing with 
an army of simians, all borne upon the backs of flying eagles. He, 
the Friend of Living Things — so with much love is Indra called — was 
returning from his final war with the hideous Rakshakas — returning 
victorious ; and in his suite were Rama, the hero, and Sita, his bride, 
who, next to Isis herself, was the very most beautiful. And Isis arose, 
and took off her girdle of stars, and waved it to Sita — ^to Sita, mind 
you — waved it in glad salute. And instantly, between the marching 
host and the two on the golden roof, a something as of night fell, and 
shut out the view ; but it was not night — only the frown of Osiris. 

" It happened the subject of his speech that moment was such as 
none else than they could think of ; and he arose, and said, majestical- 
ly, * Get thee home. I will do the work myself. To make a perfectly 
happy being I do not need thy help. Get thee gone.' 

" Now Isis .had eyes large as those of the white cow which in the 
temple eats sweet grasses from the hands of the faithful even while 
they say their prayers ; and her eyes were the color of the cows, and 
quite 618 tender. And she too arose and said, smiling as she spoke, 
60 her look was little more than the glow of the moon in the hazy 
harvest-month, * Farewell, good my lord. Tou will call me presently, 
I know ; for without me you cannot make the p^tl^^W-'j \i«;^Y^ ^T^s6^2(^sRi 



456 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF TUE CnRIST. 

of which you were thinking, any more * — and she stopped to laugh, 
knowing well the truth of the saying — * any more, my lord, than you 
yourself can be perfectly happy without me.* 
' " * We will see,' he said. 

" And she went her way, and took her needles and her chair, and 
on the roof of the silver palace sat watching and knitting. 

** And the will of Osiris, at labor in his mighty breast, was as the 
sound of the mills of all the other gods grinding at once, so loud that 
the near stars rattled like seeds in a parched pod ; and some dropped 
out and were lost. And while the sound kept on she waited and knit ; 
nor lost she ever a stitch the while. 

** Soon a spot appeared in the space over towards the sun ; and it 
grew until it was great as the moon, and then she knew a world was 
intended ; but when, growing and growing, at last it cast her planet in 
the shade, all save the little point lighted by her presence, she knew 
how very angry he was ; yet she knit away, assured that the end would 
be as she had said. 

'^ And so came the earth, at first but a cold gray mass hanging list- 
Jess in the hollow void. Later she saw it separate into divisions ; 
here a plain, there a mountain, yonder a sea, all as yet without a 
sparkle. And then, by a river-bank, something moved ; and she stop- 
ped her knitting for wonder. The something arose, and lifted its hands 
to the fiun in sign of knowledge whence it had its being. And this 
First Man was beautiful to see. And about him were the creations we 
call nature — the grass, the trees, birds, beasts, even the insects and 
reptiles. 

" And for a time the man went about happy in his life : it was easy 
to see how happy he was. And in the lull of the sound of the labor- 
ing will Isis heard a scornful laugh, and presently the words, blown 
across from the sun, 

" * Thy help, indeed ! Behold a creature perfectly happy I* 

**And Isis fell to knitting again, for she was patient as Osiris was 
strong ; and if he could work, she could wait ; and wait she did, know- 
ing that mere life is not enough to keep anything content. 

"And sure enough. Not long until the Divine Wife could see a 
change in the man. He grew listless, and kept to one place prone by 
the river, and looked up but seldom, and then always with a moody face. 
Interest was dying in him. And when she made sure of it, even while 
she was saying to herself, *■ The creature is sick of his being/ there 
was a roar of the creative will at work again, and in a twinkling the 
earth, theretofore all a thing of coldest gray, flamed with colors ; the 
mountains swam in purple, the plains bearing grass and trees turned 
green, the sea blue, and the clouds varied infinitely. And the man 
sprang up and clapped his hands, for he was cured and happy again. 

" And Isis smiled, and knit away, saying to herself, * It was well 
thought, and will do a little while ; but mere beauty in a world is not 
enough for such a being. My lord must try again.' 

" With the last word, the thunder of the will at work shook the 
xnooD, and, looking, Isia drop^e^Vw \a3CiX\isi"gj wid clapped her hands ; 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 457 

for theretofore everjrthing on the earth but the man had been fixed to 
a given place ; now all living, and much that was not living, received 
the gift of Motion. The birds took to wing joyously ; beasts great and 
small went about, each in its way ; the trees shook their verdurous 
branches, nodding to the enamoured winds ; the rivers ran to the seas, 
and the seas tossed in their beds and rolled in crested waves, and with 
surging and ebbing painted the shores with glistening foam ; and over 
all the clouds floated like sailed ships unanchored. 

" And the man rose up happy as a child ; whereat Osiris was pleased, 
so that he shouted, ^ Ha, ha ! See how well I am doing without thee !' 

" The good wife took up her work, and answered ever so quietly, 
' It was well thought, my lord — ever so well thought — and will serve 
awhile.* 

" And as before, so again. The sight of things in motion became to 
the man as of course. The birds in flight, the rivers running, the seas 
in tumult of action,' ceased to amuse him, and he pined again even 
worse. 

" And Isis waited, saying to herself, * Poor creature ! He is more 
wretched than ever.' 

" And, as if he heard the thought, Osiris stirred, and the noise of his 
will shook the universe ; the sun in its central seat alone stood firm. 
And Isis looked, but saw no change ; then, while she was smiling, as- 
sured that her lord's last invention was sped, suddenly the creature 
arose, and seemed to listen ; and his face brightened, and he clapped 
his hands for joy, for Sounds were heard the first time on earth — 
sounds dissonant, sounds harmonious. The winds murmured in the 
trees ; the birds sang, each kind a song of its own, or chattered in 
speech ; the rivulets running to the rivers became so many harpers 
with harps of silver strings all tinkling together ; and the rivers run- 
ning to the seas surged on in solemn accord, while the seas beat the 
land to a tune of thunder. There was music, music everywhere, and 
all the time ; so the man could not but be happy. 

" Then Isis mused, thinking how well, how wondrous well, her lord 
was doing ; but presently she shook her head : Color, Motion, Sound 
— and she repeated them slowly — there was no element else of beauty 
except Form and Light, and to them the earth had been born. Now, 
indeed, Osiris was done ; and if the creature should again fall off into 
wretchedness, her help must be asked; and her fingers flew — two, 
three, five, even ten stitches she took at once. 

"And the man was happy a long time — longer than ever before; 
it seemed, indeed, he would never tire again. But Isis knew better ; 
and she waited and waited, nor minded the many laughs flung at her 
from the sun ; she waited and waited, and at last saw signs of the end. 
Sounds became familiar to him, and in their range, from the chirruping 
of the cricket under the roses to the roar of the seas and the bellow 
of the clouds in storm, there was not anything unusual. And he pined 
and sickened, and sought his place of moping by the river, and at last 
fell down motionless. 

" Then Isis in pity spoke. 



458 BEX-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

" * My lord,' she said, * the creature is dying.* 

*' But Osiris, though seeing it all, held his peace ; he could do uo 
more. 

*' * Shall I help him V she asked. 

" Osiris was too proud to speak. 

" Then Isis took the last stitch in her knitting, and gathering her 
work in a roll of brilliance flung it off — flung it so it fell close to the 
man. And he, hearing the sound of the fall so near by, looked up, 
and lo ! a Woman — the First Woman — was stooping to help him ! 
She reached a hand to him; he caught it and arose; and nevermore 
was miserable, but evermore happy.'* 

" Such, O son of Hur ! is the genesis of the beautif n1, as 
they tell it on the Nile." 

She paused. 

"A pretty invention, and cunning," he said, directly; 
" but it is imperfect. What did Osiris afterwards ?" 

" Oh yes," she replied. " He called the Divine Wife back 
to the sun, and they went on all pleasantly together, each 
helping the other." 

"And shall I not do as the first man ?" 

He carried the hand resting upon his neck to his lips. 
" In love — in love !" he said. 

His head dropped softly into her lap. 

"You will find the King," she said, placing her other 
hand caressingly upon his head. "You will go on and 
find the King and serve him. With your sword you will 
earn his richest gifts; and his best soldier will be my 
hero." 

He turned his face, and saw hers close above. In all the 
sky there was that moment nothing so bright to him as 
her eyes, enshadowed though they were. Presently he sat 
up, and put his arms about her, and kissed her passionately, 
saying, " O Egypt, Egypt ! If the King has crowns in gift, 
one shall be mine ; and I will bring it and put it here over 
the place my lips have marked. You shall be a queen — 
ray queen — no one more beautiful ! And we will be ever, 
ever so happy !" 

"And you will tell me everything, and let me help you 
in all ?" she said, kissing him in return. 

The question chilled his fervor. 

" Is it not enoug\i tJaaX 1 lo^e you 1" he asked. 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 459 

" Perfect love means perfect faith," she replied. " But 
never mind — you will know me better." 

She took her hand from him and arose. 

" You are cruel," he said. 

Moving away, she stopped by the camel, and touched its 
front face with her lips. 

" O thou noblest of thy kind ! — that, because there is no 
suspicion in thy love." 

An instant, and she was gone. 



Chapter V. 

The third day of the journey the party nooned by the 
river Jabbok, where there were a hundred or more men, 
mostly of Peraea, resting themselves and their beasts. Hard- 
ly had they dismounted, before a man came to them with a 
pitcher of water and a bowl, and offered them drink ; as 
they received the attention with much courtesy, he said, 
looking at the camel, "I am returning from the Jordan, 
where just now there are many people from distant parts, 
travelling as you are, illustrious friend ; but they had none 
of them the equal of your servant here. A very noble an- 
imal. May I ask of what breed he is sprung ?" 

Balthasar answered, and sought his rest ; but Ben-Hur, 
more curious, took up the remark. 

" At what place on the river are the people ?" he asked. 

" At Bethabara." 

" It used to be a lonesome ford," said Ben-Hur. " I 
cannot understand how it can have become of such in- 
terest." 

" I see," the stranger replied; " you, too, are from abroad, 
and have not heard the good tidings." 

"What tidings?" 

" Well, a man has appeared out of the wilderness — a very 
holy man — with his mouth full of strange words, which take 
hold of all who hear them. He calls himself John the Naz- 
arite, son of Zacharias, and says he is the messenger sent 
before the Messiah." 

Even Iras listened closely while the maa coTi^YKQ«A\ 



460 BEN-HUR; A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

" Tbey say of this John that he has spent his life from 
childhood in a cave down by En-gedi, praying and living 
more strictly than the Essenes. Crowds go to bear him 
preach. I went to hear him with the rest." 
" Have all these, your friends, been there f' 
" Most of them are going ; a few are coming away." 
" What does he preach f 

" A new doctrine — one never before taught in Israel^ as 
all say. He calls it repentance and baptism. The rabbis do 
not know what to make of him ; nor do we. Some have 
asked him if he is the Christ, others if he is Elias ; but to 
them all he has the answer, * I am the voice of one crying 
in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord ! " 

At this point the man was called away by his friends ; as 
he was going, Balthasar spoke. 

" Good stranger !" he said, tremulously, " tell us if we shall 
find the preacher at the place you left him." 
" Yes, at Bethabara." 

" Who should this Nazarite be ?" said Ben-Har to Iras, "if 
not the herald of our King ?" 

In so short a time he had come to regard the daughter 
as more interested in the mysterious personage he was 
looking for than the aged father ! Nevertheless, the latter 
with a positive glow in his sunken eyes half arose, and 
said, 

" Let us make haste. I am not tired." 
They turned away to help the slave. 

There was little conversation between the three at the 
stopping-place for the night west of Ramoth-Gilead. 

"Let us arise early, son of Hur," said the old man. 
"The Saviour may come, and we not there." 

" The King cannot be far behind his herald," Iras whis- 
pered, as she prepared to take her place on the camel. 

" To-morrow we will see !" Ben-Hur replied, kissing her 
hand. 

Next day about the third hour, out of the pass through 
which, skirting the base of Mount Gilead, they had jour- 
neyed since leaving Ramoth, the party came upon the bar- 
ren steppe east of the sacred river. Opposite them they 
saw the uppex \\m\\, ol \)afc Q\^^^m\^\jLd& of Jericho, stretch- 



B3X-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 451 

ing off to the hill-country of Judea. Ben-Hur's blood ran 
quickly, for he knew the ford was close at hand. 

" Content you, good Balthasar," he said ; " we are almost 
there." 

The driver quickened the camel's pace. Soon they caught 
sight of booths and tents and tethered animals; and then 
of the river, and a multitude collected down close by the 
bank, and yet another multitude on the western shore. 
Knowing that the preacher was preaching, they made great- 
er haste ; yet, as they were drawing near, suddenly there 
was a commotion in the mass, and it began to break up 
and disperse. 

They were too late I 

" Let us stay here," said Ben-Hur to Balthasar, who was 
wringing his hands. " The Nazarite may come this way." 

The people were too intent upon what they had h%ard, 
and too busv in discussion, to notice the new-comers. 
When some hundreds were gone by, and it seemed the op- 
portunity to so much as see the Nazarite was lost to the 
latter, up the river not far away they beheld a person com- 
ing towards them of such singular appearance they forgot 
all else. 

Outwardly the man was rude and uncouth, even savage. 
Over a thin, gaunt visage of the hue of brown parchment, 
over his shoulders and down his back below the middle, in 
witch-like locks, fell a covering of sun-scorched hair. His 
eyes were burning-bright. All his right side was naked, 
and of the color of his face, and quite as meagre ; a shirt 
of the coarsest camel's-hair — coarse as Bedouin tent-cloth — 
clothed the rest of his person to the knees, being gathered 
at the waist by a broad girdle of untanned leather. His 
feet were bare. A scrip, also of untanned leather, was fast- 
ened to the girdle. He used a knotted staff to help him 
forward. His movement was quick, decided, and strange- 
ly watchful. Every little while he tossed the unruly 
hair from his eyes, and peered round as if searching for 
somebody. 

The fair Egyptian surveyed the son of the Desert with sur- 
prise, not to say disgust. Presently, raising the curtain of the 
houdah, she spoke to Ben-Hur, who sat his horse near by. 



462 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

*' Is that the herald of thy King ?" 

" It is the Nazarite," he replied, without looking up. 

In truth, he was himself more than disappointed. De- 
spite his familiarity with the aspetic colonists in En-gedi 
— their dress, their indifference to all worldly opinion, their 
constancy to vows which gave them over to every imagi- 
nable suffering of body, and separated them from others of 
their kind as absolutely as if they had not been bom like 
them — and notwithstanding he had been notified on the 
way to look for a Nazarite whose simple description of 
himself was a Voice from the Wilderness — still Ben-Hur's 
dream of the King who was to be so great and do so much 
had colored all his thought of him, so that he never doubt- 
ed to find in the forerunner some sign or token of the 
goodliness and royalty he was announcing. Gazing at the 
savage figure before him, the long trains of courtiers whom 
he had been used to see in the thermae and imperial cor- 
ridors at Rome arose before him, forcing a comparison. 
Shocked, shamed, bewildered, he could only answer, 

" It is the Nazarite." 

With Balthasar it was very different. The ways of God, 
he knew, were not as men would have them. He had seen 
the Saviour a child in a manger, and was prepared by his 
faith for the rude and simple in connection with the Di- 
vine reappearance. So he kept his seat, his hands crossed 
upon his breast, his lips moving in prayer. He was not ex- 
pecting a king. 

In this time of such interest to the new-comers, and in 
which they were so differently moved, another man had 
been sitting by himself on a stone at the edge of the river, 
thinking yet, probably, of the sermon he had been hearing. 
Now, however, he arose, and walked slowly up from the 
shore, in a course to take him across the line the Nazarite 
was pursuing and bring him near the camel. 

And the two — the preacher and the stranger — kept on 
until they came, the former within twenty yards of the ani- 
mal, the latter within ten feet. Then the preacher stopped, 
and flung the hair from his eyes, looked at the stranger, 
threw his hands up as a signal to all the people in sight; 
and tbey also stopped, e^^ m t\ie pose of a listener ; and 



BEK-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 403 

when the hush was perfect, slowly the staff in the Nazarite's 
right hand came down pointed at the stranger. 

All those who before were but listeners became watchers 
also. 

At the same instant, under the same impulse, Balthasar 
and Ben-Hur fixed their gaze upon the man pointed out, 
and both took the same impression, only in different degree. 
He was moving slowly towards them in a clear space a little 
to their front, a form slightly above the average in stature, 
and slender, even delicate. His action was calm and delib- 
erate, like that habitual to men much given to serious 
thought upon grave subjects ; and it well became his cos- 
tume, which was an under-garment full-sleeved and reach- 
ing to the ankles, and an outer robe called the talith ; on 
his left arm he carried the usual handkerchief for the head, 
the red fillet swinging loose down his side. Except the 
fillet and a narrow border of blue at the lower edge of the 
talith, his attire was of linen yellowed with dust and road- 
stains. Possibly the exception should be extended to the 
tassels, which were blue and white, as prescribed by law for 
rabbis. His sandals were of the simplest kind. He was 
without scrip or girdle or staff. 

These points of appearance, however, the three beholders 
observed briefly, and rather as accessories to the head and 
face of the man, which — especially the latter — were the real 
sources of the spell they caught in common with all who 
stood looking at him. 

The head was open to the cloudless light, except as it was 
draped with hair long and slightly waved, and parted in the 
middle, and auburn in tint, with a tendency to reddish golden 
where most strongly touched by the sun. Under a broad, 
low forehead, under black well-arched brows, beamed eyes 
dark-blue and large, and softened to exceeding tenderness 
by lashes of the great length sometimes seen on children, but 
seldom, if ever, on men. As to the other features, it would 
have been difficult to decide whether they were Greek or 
Jewish. The delicacy of the nostrils and mouth was un- 
usual to the latter type; and when it was taken into ac- 
count with the gentleness of the eyes, the pallor of the com- 
plexion, the fine teicture of the hair, and the softness o£ tb!(^ 



484 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

beard, which fell in waves over his throat to his breast, 
never a soldier but would have laughed at him in encoun- 
ter, never a woman who would not have confided in him 
at sight, never a child that would not, with quick instinct, 
have given him its hand and whole artless trust ; nor might 
any one have said he was not beautiful. 

The features, it should be further said, were ruled by a 
certain expression which, as the viewer chose, might with 
equal correctness have been called the effect of intelligence, 
love, pity, or sorrow; though, in better speech, it was a 
blending of them all — a look easy to fancy as the mark of 
a sinless soul doomed to the sight and understanding of the 
utter sinfulness of those among whom it was passing; yet 
withal no one could have observed the face with a thought 
of weakness in the man ; so, at least, would not they who 
know that the qualities mentioned — love, sorrow, pity — are 
the results of a consciousness of strength to bear suffering 
oftener than strength to do : such has been the might of 
martyrs and devotees and the myriads written down in saint- 
ly calendars. And such, indeed, was the air of this one. 

Slowly he drew near — nearer the three. 

Now Ben-Hur, mounted and spear in hand, was an object 
to claim the glance of a king ; yet the eyes of the man ap- 
proaching were all the time raised above him — and not to 
Iras, whose loveliness has been so often remarked, but to 
Balthasar, the old and unserviceable. 

The hush was profound. 

Presently the Nazarite, still pointing with his staff, cried, 
in a loud voice, 

" Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of 
the world !" 

The many standing still, arrested by the action of the 
speaker, and listening for what might follow, were struck 
with awe by words so strange and past their understanding; 
upon Balthasar they were overpowering. He was there to 
see once more the Redeemer of men. The faith which had 
brought him the singular privileges of the time long gone 
abode yet in his heart ; and if now it gave him a power of 
vision above that of his fellows — a power to see and know 
him for whom he vjaa looking — better than calling the 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 465 

power a miracle, let it be thought of as the faculty of a soul 
not yet entirely released from the divine relations to which 
it had been formerly admitted, or as the fitting reward of a 
life in that age so without examples of holiness — a life itself 
a miracle. The ideal of his faith was before him, perfect in 
face, form, dress, action, age ; and he was in its view, and 
the view was recognition. Ah, now if something should 
happen to identify the stranger beyond all doubt ! 

And that was what did happen. 

Exactly at the fitting moment, as if to assure the trem- 
bling Egyptian, the Nazarite repeated the outcry, 

" Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of 
the world !" 

Balthasar fell upon his knees. For him there was no need 
of explanation ; and as if the Nazarite knew it, he turned 
to those more immediately about him staring in wonder, 
and continued : 

" This is he of whom I said. After me cometh a man 
which is preferred before me ; for he was before me. And 
I knew him not : but that he should be manifest to Israel, 
therefore am I come baptizing with water. I saw the Spirit 
descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. 
And I knew him not : but he that sent me to baptize with 
water, the same said unto me. Upon whom thou shalt see 
the Spirit descending and remaining on him, the same is he 
which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw and bare 
record, that this " — he paused, his staff still pointing at the 
stranger in the white garments, as if to give a more absolute 
certainty to both his words and the conclusions intended — 
" I bare record, that this is the Son of God !" 

" It is he, it is he !" Balthasar cried, with upraised tear- 
ful eyes. Next moment he sank down insensible. 

In this time, it should be remembered, Ben-Hur was 
studying the face of the stranger, though with an interest 
entirely different He was not insensible to its purity of 
feature, and its thoughtfulness, tenderness, humility, and 
holiness ; but just then there was room in his mind for but 
one thought — Who is this man ? And what ? Messiah or 
king ? Never was apparition more unroyal. Nay, looking 
at that calm, benignant countenance, the very idea of ^^^ 
^0 



466 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

and conquest, and last of dominion, smote him like a prof- 
anation. He said, as if speaking to his own heart, Bal- 
thasar must be right and Simonides wrong. This man has 
not come to rebuild the throne of Solomon ; he has neither 
the nature nor the genius of Herod; king he may be, but 
not of another and greater than Rome. 

It should be understood now that this was not a conclu- 
sion with Ben-Hur, but an impression merely ; and while it 
was forming, while yet he gazed at the wonderful counte- 
nance, his memory began to throe and straggle. " Surely," 
he said to himself, " I have seen the man ; but where and 
when ?" That the look, so calm, so pitiful, so loving, had 
somewhere in a past time beamed upon him as that moment 
it was beaming upon Balthasar became an assurance. Faintly 
at first, at last a clear light, a burst of sunshine, the scene by 
the well at Nazareth what time the Roman guard was drag- 
ging him to the galleys returned, and all his being thrilled. 
Those hands had helped him when he was perishing. The 
face was one of the pictures he had carried in mind ever 
since. In the effusion of feeling excited, the explanation of 
the preacher was lost by him, all but the last words — words 
so marvellous that the world yet rings with them : 

** — this is the Son of God !" 

Ben-Hur leaped from his horse to render homage to his 
benefactor ; but Iras cried to him, " Help, son of Hur, help, 
or my father will die !" 

He stopped, looked back, then hurried to her assistance. 
She gave him a cup; and leaving the slave to bring the 
camel to its knees, he ran to the river for water. The stran- 
ger was gone when he came back 

At last Balthasar was restored to consciousness. Stretch- 
ing forth his hands, he asked, feebly, " Where is he ?" 

** Who ?" asked Iras. 

An intense instant interest shone upon the good man's 
face, as if a last wish had been gratified, and he answered, 

" He — the Redeemer — the Son of God, whom I have seen 
again." 

" Believest thou so?" Iras asked in a low voice of Ben-Hur. 

"The time is full of wonders; let us wait," was all he 
said 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 467 

And next day while the three were listening to him, the 
Nazarite broke off in mid-speech, saying reverently, " Be- 
hold the Lamb of God !" 

Looking to where he pointed, they beheld the stranger 
again. As Ben-Hur surveyed the slender figure, and holy 
beautiful countenance compassionate to sadness, a new idea 
broke upon him. 

" Balthasar is right — so is Siraonides. May not the Re- 
deemer be a king also ?" 

And he asked one at his side, " Who is the man walking 
vonder ?" 

The other laughed mockingly, and replied, 

" He is the son of a carpenter over in Nazareth." 



468 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHUIST. 



BOOK EIGHTH. 



" Who could resist ? Who in this universe ? 
She did so breathe ambrosia, so immerse 
My fine existence in a golden clime. 
She took me like a child of suckling-time, 
And cradled me in roses. Thus condemned, 
The current of my former life was stemmM, 
And to this arbitrary queen of sense 
I bow'd a tranced vassal." — Keats, Endymion, 

** I am the resurrection and the life." 




Chapter L 

" Esther — Esther ! Speak to the servant belov that he 
may bring me a cup of water." 

"Would you not rather have wine, father?" 

" Let him bring both." 

This was in the summer-house upon the roof of the old 
palace of the Hurs in Jerusalem. From the parapet over^ 
looking the court-yard Esther called to a man in waiting 
there ; at the same moment another man-servant came up 
the steps and saluted respectfully. 

" A package for the master," he said, giving her a letter 
enclosed in linen cloth, tied and sealed. 

For the satisfaction of the reader, we stop to say that it 
is the twenty-first day of March, nearly three years after the 
annunciation of the Christ at Bethabara. 

In the meanwhile, Malluch, acting for Ben-Hur, who could 
not longer endure the emptiness and decay of his father's 

use, had bought it from Pontius Pilate ; and, in process of 



BEN-flUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 469 

repair, gates, courts, lewens, stairways, terraces, rooms, and 
roof had been cleansed and thoroughly restored; not only 
was there no reminder left of the tragic circumstances so 
ruinous to the family, but the refurnishment was in a style 
richer than before. At every point, indeed, a visitor was 
met by evidences of the higher tastes acquired by the young 
proprietor during his years of residence in the villa by 
Misenum and in the Roman capital. 

Now it should not be inferred from this explanation that 
Ben-Hur had publicly assumed ownership of the property. 
In his opinion, the hour for that was not yet com«. Neither 
had he yet taken his proper name. Passing the time in the 
labors of preparation in Galilee, he waited patiently the ac- 
tion of the Nazarene, who became daily more and more a 
mystery to him, and by prodigies done, often before his 
eyes, kept him in a state of anxious doubt both as to his 
character and mission. Occasionally he came up to the 
Holy City, stopping at the paternal house ; always, how- 
ever, as a stranger and a guest. 

These visits of Ben-Hur, it should also be observed, were 
for more than mere rest from labor. Balthasar and Iras 
made their home in the palace ; and the charm of the daugh- 
ter was still upon him with all its original freshness, while 
the father, though feebler in body, held him an unflagging 
listener to speeches of astonishing power, urging the divinity 
of the wandering miracle-worker of whom they were all so 
expectant. 

As to Simonides and Esther, they had arrived from An- 
tioch only a few days before this their reappearance — a wea- 
risome journey to the merchant, borne, as he had been, in 
a palanquin swung between two camels, which, in their ca- 
reening, did not always keep the same step. But now that 
he was come, the good man, it seemed, could not see enough 
of his native land. He delighted in the perch upon the 
roof, and spent most of his day hours there seated in an 
arm-chair, the duplicate of that one kept for him in the 
cabinet over the store-house by the Orontes. In the shade 
of the summer-house he could drink fully of the inspiring air 
lying lightly upon the familiar hills ; he could better watch 
the sun rise, run its course, and set as it used to m tba iax- 



4'?0 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

gone, not a habit lost; and with Esther by him it was so 
much easier up there close to the sky, to bring back the 
other Esther, his love in youth, his wife, dearer growing 
with the passage of years. And yet he was not unmindful 
of business. Every day a messenger brought him a de- 
spatch from Sanballat, in charge of the big commerce be- 
hind ; and every day a despatch left him for Sanballat with 
directions of such minuteness of detail as to exclude all judg- 
mefit save his own, and all chances except those the Almighty 
has refused to submit to the most mindful of men. 

As Esther started in return to the summer-house, the sun- 
light fell softly upon the dustless roof, showing her a wom- 
an now — small, graceful in form, of regular features, rosy 
with youth and health, bright with intelligence, beautiful with 
the outshining of a devoted nature — a woman to be loved 
because loving was a habit of life irrepressible with her. 

She looked at the package as she turned, paused, looked 
at it a second time more closely than at first ; and the blood 
rose reddening her cheeks — the seal was Ben-Hur's. With 
quickened steps she hastened on. 

Simonides held the package a moment while he also in- 
spected the seal. Breaking it open, he gave her the roll it 
contained. 

" Read," he said. 

His eyes were upon her as he spoke, and instantly a 
troubled expression fell upon his own face. 

" You know who it is from, I see, Esther." 

" Yes — from — our master." 

Though the manner was halting, she met his gaze with 
modest sincerity. Slowly his chin sank into the roll of 
flesh puffed out under it like a cushion. 

" You love him, Esther," he said, quietly. 

*' Yes," she answered. 

" Have you thought well of what you do ?" 

" I have tried not to think of him, father, except as the 
master to whom I am dutifully bound. The effort has not 
helped me to strength." 

"A good girl, a good girl, even as thy mother was," he 
said, dropping into reverie, from which she roused him by 
unrolling the paper. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 471 

" The Lord forgive me, but — but thy love might not have 
been vainly given had I kept fast hold of all I had, as I 
might have done — such power is there in money !" 

** It would have been worse for me had you done so, fa- 
ther ; for then I had been unworthy a look from him, and 
without pride in you. Shall I not read now ?" 

*'In a moment," he said. **Let me, for your sake, 
my child, show you the worst. Seeing it with me may 
make it less terrible to you. His love, Esther, is all be- 
stowed." 

" I know it," she said, calmly. 

" The Egyptian has him in her net," he continued. " She 
has the cunning of her race, with beauty to help her — much 
beauty, great cunning ; but, like her race again, no heart. 
The daughter who despises her father will bring her hus- 
band to grief." • 

*' Does she that ?" 

Simonides went on : 

"Balthasar is a wise man who has been wonderfully fa- 
vored for a Gentile, and his faith becomes him; yet she 
makes a jest of it. I heard her say, speaking of him yes- 
terday, ' The follies of youth are excusable ; nothing is ad- 
mirable in the aged except wisdom, and when that goes 
from them, they should die.' A cruel speech, fit for a Ro^ 
man. I applied it to myself, knowing a feebleness like her 
father's will come to me also — nay, it is not far off. But 
you, Esther, will never say of me — no, never — ' It were bet- 
ter he were dead.' No, your mother was a daughter of 
Judah." 

With half-formed tears, she kissed him, and said, " I am 
my mother's child." 

** Yes, and my daughter — my daughter, who is to me all 
the Temple was to Solomon." 

After a silence, he laid his hand upon her shoulder, and 
resumed : " When he has taken the Egyptian to wife, Es- 
ther, he will think of you with repentance and much calling 
of the spirit ; for at last he will awake to find himself but 
the minister of her bad ambition. Rome is the centre of 
all her dreams. To her he is the son of Arrius the duumvir, 
not the son of Hur, Prince of Jerusalem." 



472 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHBIST. 

Esther made no attempt to conceal the effect of these 
words. 

**' Save him, father ! It is not too late !'* she said, en- 
treatingly. 

He answered, with a dubious smile, " A man drowning 
may be saved ; not so a man in love." 

"But you have influence with him. He is alone in the 
world. Show him his danger. Tell him what a woman 
she is." 

" That might save him from her. Would it give him to 
you, Esther ? No," and his brows fell darkly over his eye& 
" I am a servant, as my fathers were for generations ; yet I 
could not say to him, * Lo, master, my daughter ! She is 
fairer than the Egyptian, and loves thee better.' I have 
caught too much from years of liberty and direction. The 
words would blister my tongue. The stones upon the old 
hills yonder would turn in their beds for shame when I go 
out to them. No, by the patriarchs, Esther, I would rather 
lay us both with your mother to sleep as she sleeps !" 

A blush burned Esther's whole face. 

" I did not mean you to tell him so, father. I was con- 
cerned for him alone — for his happiness, not mine. Because 
I have dared love him, I shall keep myself worthy his re- 
spect ; so only can I excuse my folly. Let me read his let- 
ter now." 

" Yes, read it" 

She began at once, in haste to conclude the distasteful 
subject. 

'•''Nhan 8th day. 

'* On the road from Galilee to Jerusalem. 

" The Nazarene is on the way also. With him, though without his 
knowledge, I am bringing a full legion of mine. A second legion fol- 
lows. The Passover will excuse the multitude. He said upon setting 
out, * We will go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by 
the prophets concerning me shall be accomplished.* 

** Our waiting draws to an end. 

" In haste. 

" Peace to thee, Simonides. Bkn-Hur." 

Esther returned the letter to her father, while a choking 
sensation gathered in her throat. There was not a word 
in the missive for her — not even in the salutation had she a 



BEN-flUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 473 

share — and it would have been so easy to have written 
" and to thine, peace." For the first tirae in her life she 
felt the smart of a jealous sting. 

" The eighth day," said Simonides, " the eighth day ; and 
this, Esther, this is the — " 

*' The ninth," she replied. 

" Ah, then, they may be in Bethany now." 

"And possibly we may see him to-night," she added, 
pleased into momentary forgetfulness. 

"It may be, it may be 1 To-morrow is the Feast of Un- 
leavened Bread, and he may wish to celebrate it; so may 
the Nazarene ; and we may see him — we may see both of 
them, Esther." 

At this point the servant appeared with the wine and wa- 
ter. Esther helped her father, and in the midst of the ser- 
vice Iras came upon the roof. 

To the Jewess the Egyptian never appeared so very, very 
beautiful as at that moment. Her gauzy garments fluttered 
about her like a little cloud of mist ; her forehead, neck, 
and arms glittered with the massive jewelry so affected by 
her people. Her countenance was suffused with pleasure. 
She moved with buoyant steps, and self-conscious, though 
without affectation. Esther at the sight shrank within her- 
self, and nestled closer to her father. 

"Peace to you, Simonides, and to the pretty Esther 
peace," said Iras, inclining her head to the latter. " You 
remind me, good master — if I may say it without offence 
— you remind me of the priests in Persia who climb their 
temples at the decline of day to send prayers after the de- 
parting sun. Is there anything: in the worship you do not 
know, let me call my father. He is Magian-bred." 

"Fair Egyptian," the merchant replied, nodding with 
grave politeness, " your father is a good man who would 
not be offended if he knew I told you his Persian lore is 
the least part of his wisdom." 

Iras's lip curled slightly. 

" To speak like a philosopher, as you invite me," she said, 
" the least part always implies a greater. Let me ask what 
you esteem the greater part of the rare quality you are 
pleased to attribute to him." 



474 BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

Siraonides turned upon her somewhat sternly. 

" Pure wisdom always directs itself towards God ; the 
purest wisdom is knowledge of God ; and no man of roy 
acquaintance has it in higher degree, or makes it more mani- 
fest in speech and act, than the good Balthasar." 

To end the parley, he raised the cup and drank. 

The Egyptian turned to Esther a little testily. 

" A man who has millions in store, and fleets of ships at 
sea, cannot discern in what simple women like us find 
amusement. Let us leave him. By the wall yonder we 
c^n talk." 

They went to the parapet then, stopping at the place 
where, years before, Ben-Hur loosed the broken tile upon the 
head of Gratus. 

" You have not been to Rome f' Iras began, toying the 
while with one of her unclasped bracelets. 

" No," said Esther, demurely. 

" Have you not wished to go ?" 

" No." 

" Ah, how little there has been of your life !" 

The sigh that succeeded the exclamation could not have 
been more piteously expressive had the loss been the Egyp- 
tian's own. Next moment her laugh might have been heard 
in the street below ; and she said, " Oh, oh, my pretty sim- 
pleton! The half-fledged birds nested in the ear of the 
great bust out on the Memphian sands know nearly as much 
as you." 

Then, seeing Esther's confusion, she changed her man- 
ner, and said in a confiding tone, " You must not take 
offence. Oh no ! I was playing. Let me kiss the hurt, 
and tell you what I would not to any other — not if Simbel 
himself asked it of me, offering a lotus-cup of the spray of 
the Nile !" 

Another laugh, masking excellently the look she turned 
sharply upon the Jewess, and she said, " The King is com- 
mg." 

Esther gazed at her in innocent surprise. 

" The Nazarene," Iras continued — " he whom our fathers 
have been talking about so much, whom Bcn-Hur has been 
serving and toiVmg lot so lon^" — her voice dropped several 



BEN-flUR: A TALE OF THE CURIST. 475 

tones lower — "the Nazarene will be here to-morrow, and 
Ben-Hur to-night." 

Esther struggled to maintain her composure, but failed : 
her eyes fell, the tell-tale blood surged to her cheek and 
forehead, and she was saved sight of the triumphant smile 
that passed, like a gleam, over the face of the Egyptian." 

" See, here is his promise." 

And from her girdle she took a roll. 

" Rejoice with me, O my friend ! He will be here to- 
night! On the Tiber there is a house, a royal property, 
which he has pledged to me ; and to be its mistress is to 
be—" 

A sound of some one walking swiftly along the street 
below interrupted the speech, and she leaned over the para- 
pet to see. Then she drew back, and cried, with hands 
clasped above her head, " Now blessed be Isis ! 'Tis he — 
Ben-Hur himself ! That he should appear while I had such 
thought of him ! There are no gods if it be not a good 
omen. Put your arms about me, Esther — and a kiss !" 

The Jewess looked up. Upon each cheek there was a 
glow ; her eyes sparkled with a light more nearly of anger 
than ever her nature emitted before. Her gentleness had 
been too roughly overridden. It was not enough for her 
to be forbidden more than fugitive dreams of the man she 
loved; a boastful rival must tell her in confidence of her 
better success, and of the brilliant promises which were its 
rewards. Of her, the servant of a servant, there had been 
no hint of remembrance ; this other could show his letter, 
leaving her to imagine all it breathed. So she said, 

" Dost thou love him so much, then, or Rome so much 
better." 

The Egyptian drew back a step; then she bent her 
haughty head quite near her questioner. 

" What is he to thee, daughter of Simonides?" 

Esther, all thrilling, began, " He is my — " 

A thought blasting as lightning stayed the words: she 
paled, trembled, recovered, and answered, 

"He is my father's friend." 

Her tongue had refused to admit her servile condition. 

Iras laughed more lightly than before. 



476 BEX-HUK: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

" Not more than that ?'' she said. " Ah, by the lover-gods 
of Egypt, thou mayst keep thy kisses — keep them. Thou 
hast taught me but now that there are others vastly more 
estimable waiting me here in Judea; and" — she tarned 
away, looking back over her shoulder — " I will go get them. 
Peace to thee." 

Esther saw her disappear down the steps, when, putting 
her hands over her face, she burst into tears so they ran 
scalding through her fingers — tears of shame and choking 
passion. And, to deepen the paroxysm to her even temper 
so strange, up with a new meaning of withering force rose 
her father's words — " Thy love might not have been vainly 
given had I kept fast hold of all I had, as I might have done." 

And all the stars were out, burning low above the city 
and the dark wall of mountains about it, before she recov- 
ered enough to go back to the summer-house, and in silence 
take her accustomed place at her father's side, humbly wait- 
ing his pleasure. To such duty it seemed her youth, if not 
her life, must be given. And, let the truth be said, now that 
the pang was spent, she went not unwillingly back to the 
duty. 



Chapter II. 

An hour or thereabouts after the scene upon the roof, 
Balthasar and Simon ides, the latter attended by Esther, met 
in the great chamber of the palace ; and whUe they were 
talking, Ben-Hur and Iras came in together. 

The young Jew, advancing in front of his companion, 
walked first to Balthasar, and saluted him, and received his 
reply ; then he turned to Simonides, but paused at sight of 
Esther. 

It is not often we have hearts roomy enough for more 
than one of the absorbing passions at the same time ; in its 
blaze the others may continue to live, but only as lesser 
lights. So with Ben-Hur, much study of possibilities, in- 
dulgence of hopes and dreams, influences bom of the con- 
dition of his country, influences more direct — that of Iras, 
for example — liad maui^ laixa. in the broadest worldly sense 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 4^7 

ambitious ; and as be bad given tbe passion place, allowing 
it to become a rule, and finally an imperious governor, tbe 
resolves and impulses of former days faded imperceptibly 
out of being, and at last almost out of recollection. It is 
at best so easy to forget our youtb ; in bis case it was but 
natural tbat bis own sufferings and tbe mystery darkening 
tbe fate of bis family sbould move bim less and less as, in 
bope at least, be approacbed nearer and nearer tbe goals 
wbicb occupied all bis visions. Only let us not judge bim 
too barsbly. 

He paused in surprise at seeing Estber a woman now, 
and so beautiful ; and as be stood looking at ber a still 
voice reminded bim of broken vows and duties undone: 
almost bis old self returned. 

For an instant be was startled ; but recovering, be went 
to Estber, and said, " Peace to thee, sweet Estber — peace ; 
and tbou, Simonides" — be looked to tbe merchant as be 
spoke — "tbe blessing of tbe Lord be tbine, if only be- 
cause tbou bast been a good father to tbe fatherless." 

Estber beard bim witb downcast face; Simonides an- 
swered, 

" I repeat tbe welcome of tbe good Baltbasar, son of 
Hur — welcome to thy father's bouse ; and sit, and tell us 
of thy travels, and of thy work, and of tbe wonderful 
Nazarene — who be is, and wbat. If tbou art not at ease 
here, who shall be ? Sit, I pray — there, between us, tbat we 
may all hear." 

Esther stepped out quickly and brougbt a covered stool, 
and set it for bim. 

" Thanks," be said to ber, gratefully. 

Wben seated, after some otber conversation be addressed 
bimself to tbe men. 

" I have come to tell you of tbe Nazarene." 

Tbe two became instantly attentive. 

" For many days now I have followed bim witb such 
watchfulness as one may give another upon whom be is 
waiting so anxiously. I have seen him under all circum- 
stances said to be trials and tests of men ; and while I am 
certain be is a man as I am, not less certain am I tbat be is 
something more." 



478 BEN-HUR. A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

" What more ?" asked Simonides. 

" I will tell you—" 

Some one coming into the room intemipted bim ; he 
turned, and arose with extended hands. 

" Am rah ! Dear old Amrah !" he cried. 

She came forward ; and they, seeing the joy in her face, 
thought not once how wrinkled and tawny it was. She 
knelt at his feet, clasped his knees, and kissed his hands 
over and over; and when he could he put the lank gray 
hair from her cheeks, and kissed them, saying, " Good Am- 
rah, have you nothing, nothing of them — not a word — not 
one little sign?" 

Then she broke into sobbing which made bim answer 
plainer even than the spoken word. 

" God's will has been done," he next said, solemnly, in a 
tone to make each listener know he had no hope more of 
finding his people. In his eyes there were tears which he 
would not have them see, because he was a man. 

When he could again, he took seat, and said, " Come, sit 
by me, Amrah — ^here. No? then at my feet; for I have 
much to say to these good friends of a wonderful inan 
come into the world." 

But she went off, and stooping with her back to the 
wall, joined her hands before her knees, content, they all 
thought, with seeing him. Then Ben-Hur, bowing to the 
old men, began again : 

" I fear to answer the question asked me about the Naz- 
arene without first telling you some of the things I have 
seen him do; and to that I am the more inclined, my 
friends, because to-morrow he will come to the city, and go 
up into the Temple, which he calls his father's house, 
where, it is further said, he will proclaim himself. So, 
whether you are right, O Balthasar, or you, Simonides, we 
and Israel shall know to-morrow." 

Balthasar rubbed his hands tremulously together, and 
asked, " Where shall I go to see him ?" 

" The pressure of the crowd will be very great. Better, 
I think, that you all go upon the roof above the cloisters — 
say upon the Porch of Solomon." 

" Can you be vj^^ik y^^V 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 479 

" No," said Ben-Hur, " my friends will require me, per- 
haps, in the procession." 

*' Procession !" exclaimed Simonides. "Does he travel 
in state ?" 

Ben-Hur saw the argument in mind. 

"He brings twelve men with him, fishermen, tillers of 
the soil, one a publican, all of the humbler class ; and he 
and they make their journeys on foot, careless of wind, 
cold, rain, or sun. Seeing them stop by the wayside at 
nightfall to break bread or lie down to sleep, I have been 
reminded of a party of shepherds going back to their 
flocks from market, not of nobles and kings. Only when 
he lifts the corners of his handkerchief to look at some 
one or shake the dust from his head, I am made know he 
is their teacher as well as their companion—their superior 
not less than their friend. 

" You are shrewd men," Ben-Hur resumed, after a pause. 
" You know what creatures of certain master motives we are, 
and that it has become little less than a law of our nature to 
spend life in eager pursuit of certain objects ; now, appealing 
to that law as something by which we may know ourselves, 
what would you say of a man who could be rich by making 
gold of the stones under his feet, yet is poor of choice ?" 

" The Greeks would call him a philosopher," said Iras. 

" Nay, daughter," said Balthasar, " the philosophers had 
never the power to do such thing." 

" How know you this man has ?" 

Ben-Hur answered quickly, " I saw him turn water into 
wine." 

" Very strange, very strange," said Simonides ; " but it is 
not so strange to me as that he should prefer to live poor 
when he could be so rich. Is he so poor ?" 

" He owns nothing, and envies nobody his owning. He 
pities the rich. But passing that, what would you say to 
see a man multiply seven loaves and two fishes, all his store, 
into enough to feed five thousand people, and have full 
baskets over? That I saw the Nazarene do." 

" You saw it ?" exclaimed Simonides. 

" Ay, and ate of the bread and fish." 

"More marvellous still," Ben-Hur continued, "what 



480 BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

would you say of a man in whom there is such healing vir- 
tue that the sick have but to touch the hem of his gar- 
ment to be cured, or cry to him afar? That, too, I wit- 
nessed, not once, but many times. As we came out of 
Jericho two blind men by the wayside called to the Naza- 
rene, and he touched their eyes, and they saw. So they 
brought a palsied man to him, and he said merely, * Go unto 
thy house,' and the man went away welL What say you 
to these things ?" 

The merchant had no answer. 

" Think you now, as I have heard others argue, that what 
I have told you are tricks of jugglery ? Let me answer by 
recalling greater things which I have seen him do. Look 
first to that curse of God — comfortless, as you all know, ex- 
cept by death — leprosy." 

At these words Amrah dropped her hands to the floor, 
and in her eagerness to hear him half arose. 

"What would you say," said Ben-Hur, with increased 
earnestness — " what would you say to have seen that I now 
tell you ? A leper came to the Nazarene while I was with 
him down in Galilee, and said, *Lord, if thou wilt, thou 
canst make me clean.' He heard the cry, and touched the 
outcast with his hand, saying, * Be thou clean ;* and forth- 
with the man was himself again, healthful as any of us who 
beheld the cure, and we were a multitude." 

Here Amrah arose, and with her gaunt fingers held the wiry 
locks from her eyes. The brain of the poor creature had long 
since gone to heart, and she was troubled to follow the speech. 

" Then, again," said Ben-Hur, without stop, " ten lepers 
came to him one day in a body, and falling at his feet^ 
called out — I saw and heard it all — called out, * Master, 
Master, have mercy upon us !' He told them, ' Go, show 
yourselves to the priest, as the law requires; and before 
you are come there ye shall be healed.' " 

" And were they ?" 

"Yes. On the road going their infirmity left them, so 
that there was nothing to remind us of it except their pol- 
luted clothes." 

" Such thing was never heard before — never in all Israel !" 
said Simonides, la \mdertone. 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHKIST. 481 

And then, while he was speaking, Amrah turned away, 
and walked noiselessly to the door, and went out; and 
none of the company saw her go. 

" The thoughts stirred by such things done under my 
eyes I leave you to imagine," said Ben-Hur, continuing; 
** but my doubts, my misgivings, my amazement, were not 
yet at the full. The people of Galilee are, as you know, 
impetuous and rash; after years of waiting their swords 
burned their hands; nothing would do them but action. 
* He is slow to declare himself ; let us force him,' they cried 
to me. And I too became impatient.. If he is to be king, 
why not now ? The legions are ready. So as he was once 
teaching by the seaside we would have crowned him 
whether or not ; but he disappeared, and was next seen on 
a ship departing from the shore. Good Simonides, the de- 
sires that make other men mad — riches, power, even king- 
ships offered out of great love by a great people — move 
this one not at all. What say you ?" 

The merchant's chin was low upon his breast; raising 
his head, he replied, resolutely, " The Lord liveth, and so do 
the words of the prophets. Time is in the green yet ; let 
to-morrow answer." 

" Be it so," said Balthasar, smiling. 

And Ben-Hur said, "Be it so." Then he went on: 
" But I have not yet done. From these things, not too 
great to be above suspicion by such as did not see them in 
performance as I did, let me carry you now to others infi- 
nitely greater, acknowledged since the world began to be past 
the power of man. Tell me, has any one to your knowl- 
edge ever reached out and taken from Death what Death 
has made his own ? Who ever gave again the breath of a 
life lost? Who but— " 

" God !" said Balthasar, reverently. 

Ben-Hur bowed. 

" O wise Egyptian ! I may not refuse the name you lend 
me. What would you — or you, Simonides — what would 
you either or both have said had you seen as I did, a man, 
with few words and no ceremony, without effort more than 
a mother's when she speaks to wake her child asleep, undo 
the work of Death ? It was down at Nain. We ^^t^ ^oss^ 
31 



482 BEN-HUE: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

going into the gat«, Tvhen a company came out bearing a 
dead man. The Kazarene stopped to let the tiain pass. 
There was a woman among them crying. I saw his face 
soften with pity. He spoke to her, then went and touched 
the bier, and said to him who lay upon it dressed for burial, 
' Young man, I say unto thee, Arise ! ' And instantly the 
dead sat up and talked.'^ 

" God only is so great," said Balthasar to Simonides. 
" Mark you," Ben-Hur proceeded, " I do but tell you 
things of which I was a witness, together with a cloud of 
other men. On the way hither I saw another act still more 
mighty. In Bethany there was a man named Lazarus, who 
died and was buried ; and after he had lain four days in a 
tomb, shut in by a great stone, the Nazarene was shown to 
the place. Upon rolling the stone away, we beheld the man 
' lying inside bound and rotting. There were many "people 
standing by, and we all heard what the Nazarene said, for 
he spoke in a loud voice : * Lazarus, come forth ! ' I cannot 
tell you my feelings when in answer, as it were, the man 
arose and came out to us with all his cerements about him. 
'Loose him,' said the Nazarene next, * loose him, and let 
him go.' And when the napkin was taken from the face 
of the resurrected, lo, my friends ! the blood ran anew 
through the wasted body, and he was exactly as he had 
been in life before the sickness that took him off. He lives 
yet, and is hourly seen and spoken to. You may go see him 
to-morrow. And now, as nothing more is needed for the 
purpose, I ask you that which I came to ask, it being but a 
repetition of what you asked me, Simonides, What more 
than a man is this Kazarene 1 " 

The question was put solemnly, and long after midnight 
the company sat and debated it ; Simonides being yet un- 
willing to give up his understanding of the sayings of the 
prophets, and Ben-Hur contending that the elder disputants 
were both right — that the Nazarene was the Redeemer, as 
claimed by Balthasar, and also the destined king the mer- 
chant would have. 

" To-morrow we will see. Peace to you all'* 

So saying, Ben-Hur took his leave, intending to return to 
Bethany. 



B£X-HUB: A TALE OF THS CHRIST. 483 



Chapter IIL 

The first person to go oat of the city upon the opening 
oi the Sheep's Gate next morning was Amrah, basket on 
arm. No questions were asked her by the keepers, since 
the morning itself had not been more regular in coming 
than she ; they knew her somebody's faithful servant, and 
that was enough for them. 

Down the eastern valley she took her way. The side of 
Olivet, darkly green, was spotted with white tents recently 
put up by people attending the feasts ; the hour, however, 
was too early for the strangers to be abroad ; still, had it 
not been so, no one would have troubled her. Past Greth- 
seraane; past the tombs at the meeting of the Bethany 
roads ; past the sepulchral village of Siloam she went. Oc- 
casionally the decrepit little body staggered; once she sat 
down to get her breath ; rising shortly, she struggled on 
with renewed haste. The great rocks on either hand, if 
they had had ears, might have heard her mutter to herself; 
could they have seen, it would have been to observe how 
frequently she looked up over the Mount, reproving the 
dawn for its promptness ; if it had been possible for them 
to gossip, not improbably they would have said to each 
other, '* Our friend is in a hurry this morning ; the mouths 
she goes to feed must be very hungry." 

When at last she reached the King's Garden she slack- 
ened her gait ; for then the grim city of the lepers was in 
view, extending far round the pitted south hill of Hinnom. 

As the reader must by this time have surmised, she was 
going to her mistress, whose tomb, it will be remembered, 
overlooked the well En-rogel. 

Early as it was, the unhappy woman was up and sitting 
outside, leaving Tirzah asleep within. The course of the 
malady had been terribly swift in the three years. Con- 
scious of her appearance, with the refined in&tAXis:«\& q^V^t 



484 BENHUR : A TALE OF THE CEUaST. 

nature, she kept her whole person habitually covered.* Sel- 
dom as possible she permitted even Tirzah to see her. 

This morning she was taking the air with bared head, 
knowing there was no one to be shocked by the exposure. 
The light was not full, but enough to show the ravages to 
which she had been subject. Her hair was snow - white 
and unmanageably coarse, falling over her back and shoul- 
ders like so much silver wire. The eyelids, the lips, the 
nostrils, the flesh of the cheeks, were either gone or reduced 
to fetid rawness. The neck was a mass of ash-colored 
scales. One hand lay outside the folds of her habit rigid 
as that of a skeleton ; the nails had been eaten away ; the 
joints of the fingers, if not bare to the bone, were swollen 
knots crusted with red secretion. Head, face, neck, and 
hand indicated all too plainly the condition of the whole 
body. Seeing her thus, it was easy to understand how the 
once fair widow of the princely Hur had been able to main- 
tain her incognito so well through such a period of years. 

When the sun would gild the crest of Olivet and the 
Mount of Offence with light sharper and more brilliant in 
that old land than in the West, she knew Amrah would 
come, first to the well, then to a stone midway the well and 
the foot of the hill on which she had her abode, and that 
the good servant would there deposit the food she carried 
in the basket, and fill the water-jar afresh for the day. Of 
her former plenitude of happiness, that brief visit was all 
that remained to the unfortunate. She could then ask 
about her son, and be told of his welfare, with such bits of 
news concerning him as the messenger could glean. XJsa- 
ally the information was meagre enough, yet comforting; 
at times she heard he was at home ; then she would issue 
from her dreary cell at break of day, and sit till noon, and 
from noon to set of sun, a motionless figure draped in 
white, looking, statue-like, invariably to one point — over the 
Temple to the spot under the rounded sky where the old 
house stood, dear in memory, and dearer because he was 
there. Nothing else was left her. Tirzah she counted of 
the dead; and as for herself, she simply waited the end, 
knowing every laowt oi life was an hour of dying — ^happily, 
of painless dying. 



BEN.HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 485 

The things of nature about the hill to keep her sensitive 
to the world's attractions were wretchedly scant; beasts and 
birds avoided the place as if they knew its history and pres- 
ent use ; every green thing perished in its first season ; the 
winds warred upon the shrubs and venturous grasses, leaving 
to drought such as they could not uproot. Look where she 
would, the view was made depressingly suggestive by tombs 
— tombs above her, tombs below, tombs opposite her own 
tomb — all now freshly whitened in warning to visiting pil- 
grims. In the sky — clear, fair, inviting — one would think 
she might have found some relief to her ache of mind ; but, 
alas ! in making the beautiful elsewhere the sun served her 
never so unfriendly — it did but disclose her growing hideous- 
ness. But for the sun she would not have been the horror 
she was to herself, nor been waked so cruelly from dreams 
of Tirzah as she used to be. The gift of seeing can be 
sometimes a dreadful curse. 

Does one ask why she did not make an end to her suffer- 
ings? 

The Law forbade her! 

A Gentile may smile at the answer ; but so will not a son 
of Israel. 

While she sat there peopling the dusky solitude with 
thoughts even more cheerless, suddenly a woman came up 
the hill staggering and spent with exertion. 

The widow arose hastily, and covering her head, cried, in 
a voice unnaturally harsh, " Unclean, unclean !" 

In a moment, heedless of the notice, Amrah was at her 
feet. All the long-pent love of the simple creature burst 
forth : with tears and passionate exclamations she kissed 
her mistress's garments, and for a while the latter strove to 
escape from her ; then, seeing she could not, she waited till 
the violence of the paroxysm was over. 

" What have you done, Amrah ?" she said. " Is it by such 
disobedience you prove your love for us ? Wicked woman ! 
You are lost ; and he — your master — you can never, never 
go back to him." 

Amrah grovelled sobbing in the dust. 

" The ban of the Law is upon you, too ; you cannot re- 
turn to Jerusalem. What will become of us? Who will 



486 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 



bring OS bread ? O wicked, wicked Amrah ! We are all, 
all uDdone alike !" 

" Mercy, mercy I" Amrah answered from the groiind. 

" Yon shoold have been merciful to yourself, and by so 
doing been most merciful to ns. Now where can we fly! 
There is no one to help us. O false servant ! The imth 
of the Lord was already too heavy upon us." 

Here Tirzah, awakened by the noise, appeared at the door 
of the tomb. The pen shrinks from the picture she pre- 
sented. In the half-clad apparition, patched with scales, liv- 
idly seamed, nearly blind, its limbs and extremities swollen 
to grotesque largeness, familiar eyes however sharpened bj 
love could not have recognized the creature of childish 
grace and purity we first beheld her. 

" Is it Amrah, mother ?" 

The servant tried to crawl to her also. 

" Stay, Amrah !" the widow cried, imperiously. " I for- 
bid you touching her. Rise, and get you gone before any 
at the well see you here. Nay, I forgot — it is too late! 
You must remain now and share our doom. Rise, I say T 

Amrah rose to her knees, and said, brokenly and with 
clasped hands, ** O good mistress I I am not false — I am 
not wicked. I bring you good tidings." 

" Of Judah ?" and as she spoke, the widow half withdrew 
the cloth from her head. 

" There is a wonderful man," Amrah continued, " who 
has power to cure you. He speaks a word, and the sick 
are made well, and even the dead come to life. I have 
come to take you to him." 

" Poor Amrah !" said Tirzah, compassionately. 

" No," cried Amrah, detecting the doubt underlying the 
expression — " no, as the Lord lives, even the Lord of Israel, 
my God as well as yours, I speak the truth. Go with 
me, I pray, and lose no time. Tliis morning he will pass by 
on his way to the city. See ! the day is at hand. Take 
the food here — eat, and let us go." 

The mother listened eagerly. Not unlikely she had heard 
of the wonderful man, for by this time his fame had pene- 
trated every nook in the land. 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 487 

" A Nazarene.*' 

*' Who told you about him?" 

" Judah." 

" Judah told you ? Is he at home ?" 

" He came last night." 

The widow, trying to still the beating of her heart, was 
silent awhile. 

" Did Judah send you to tell us this ?" she next asked. 

" No. He believes you dead." 

" There was a prophet once who cured a leper," the 
mother said thoughtfully to Tirzah; **but he had his 
power from God." Then addressing Amrah, she asked, 
** How does my son know this man so possessed ?" 

*^ He was travelling with him, and heard the lepers call, 
and saw them go away well. First there was one man ; then 
there were ten ; and they were all made whole." 

The elder listener was silent again. The skeleton hand 
shook. We may believe she was struggling to give the story 
the sanction of faith, which is always an absolutist in de- 
mand, and that it was with her as with the men of the day, 
eye-witnesses of what was done by the Christ, as well as the 
myriads who have succeeded them. She did not question 
the performance, for her own son was the witness testifying 
through the servant ; but she strove to comprehend the power 
by which work so astonishing could be done by a man. Well 
enough to make inquiry as to the fact ; to comprehend the 
power, on the other hand, it is first necessary to comprehend 
God ; and he who waits for that will die waiting. With 
her, however, the hesitation was brief. To Tirzah she said, 

" This must be the Messiah !" 

She spoke not coldly, like one reasoning a doubt away, 
but as a woman of Israel familiar with the promises of God 
to her race — a woman of understanding, ready to be glad 
over the least sign of the realization of the promises. 

^^ There was a time when Jerusalem and all Judea were 
filled with a story that he was bom. I remember it. By 
this time he should be a man. It must be — it is he. 
" Yes," she said to Amrah, " we will go with you. Bring 
the water which you will find in the tomb in a jar, and set 
the food for us. We will eat and be gone." 



488 BEN-HUK : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

The breakfast, partaken under excitement, was soon de- 
spatched, and the three women set out on their extraordi- 
nary journey. As Tirzah had caught the confident spirit of 
the others, there was but one fear that troubled the party. 
Bethany, Amrah said, was the town the man was coming 
from ; now from that to Jerusalem there were three roads, 
or rather paths — one over the first summit of Olivet, a 
second at its base, a third between the second summit 
and the Mount of Offence. The three were not far apart ; 
far enough, however, to make it possible for the unfortu- 
nates to miss the Nazarene if they failed the one he chose 
to come by, 

A little questioning satisfied the mother that Amrah 
knew nothing of the country beyond the Cedron, and even 
less of the intentions of the man they were going to see, if 
they could. She discerned, also, that both Amrah and Tii^ 
zah — the one from confirmed habits of servitude, the other 
from natural dependency — looked to her for guidance ; and 
she accepted the charge. 

" We will go first to Bethphage," she said to them. 
*' There, if the Lord favor us, we may learn what else to 
do." 

They descended the hill to Tophet and the King's Grar- 
den, and paused in the deep trail fuiTowed through them 
by centuries of wayfaring. 

" I am afraid of the road," the matron said. " Better that 
we keep to the country among the rocks and trees. This 
is feast-day, and on the hill-sides yonder I see signs of a 
great multitude in attendance. By going across the Mount 
of Offence here we may avoid them." 

Tirzah had been walking with great diflSculty ; upon 
hearing this her heart began to fail her. 

" The mount is steep, mother ; I cannot climb it." 

"Remember, we are going to find health and life. See, 
my child, how the day brightens around us ! And yonder 
are women coming this way to the well. They will stone 
us if we stay here. Come, be strong this once." 

Thus the mother, not less tortured herself, sought to in- 
spire the daughter ; and Amrah came to her aid. To this 
time the latter \ia4 uoX, \.QwOcvfe^ Wv^ persons of the afflict- 



BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 489 

ed, nor they her; now, in disregard of consequences as 
well as of command, the faithful creature went to Tirzah, 
and put her arm over her shoulder, and whispered, " Lean 
on me. I am strong, though I am old ; and it is but a 
little way off. There— now we can go." 

The face of the hill they essayed to cross was somewhat 
broken with pits, and ruins of old structures ; but when at 
last they stood upon the top to rest, and looked at the spec- 
tacle presented them over in the northwest — at the Tem- 
ple and its courtly terraces, at Zion, at the enduring tow- 
ers white beetling into the sky beyond — the mother was 
strengthened with a love of life for life's sake. 

" Look, Tirzah," she said — " look at the plates of gold 
on the Gate Beautiful. How they give back the flames of 
the sun, brightness for brightness ! Do you remember we 
used to go up there ? Will it not be pleasant to do so again ? 
And think — home is but a little way off. I can almost see 
it over the roof of the Holy of Holies ; and Judah will be 
there to receive us 1" 

From the side of the middle summit garnished green 
with myrtle and olive trees, they saw, upon looking that 
way next, thin columns of smoke rising lightly and straight 
up into the pulseless morning, each a warning of restless pil- 
grims astir, and of the flight of the pitiless hours, and the 
need of haste. 

Though the good servant toiled faithfully to lighten the 
labor in descending the hill-side, not sparing herself in the 
least, the girl moaned at every step ; sometimes in extrem- 
ity of anguish she cried out. Upon reaching the road — that 
is, the road between the Mount of Offence and the middle 
or second summit of Olivet — she fell down exhausted. 

" Go on with Amrah, mother, and leave me here," she 
said, faintly. 

*' No, no, Tirzah. What would the gain be to me if I 
were healed and you not ? When Judah asks for you, as he 
will, what would I have to say to him were I to leave you ?" 

" Tell him I loved him." 

The elder leper arose from bending over the fainting suf- 
ferer, and gazed about her with that sensation of hope per- 
ishing which is more nearly like annihilation of the &ovlI 



490 BEX-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

than anything else. The supremest joy of the thonght of 
cure was inseparable from Tirzah, who was not too old to 
forget, in the happiness of healthful life to come, the years 
of misery by which she had been so reduced in body and 
broken in spirit. Even as the brave woman was about leav- 
ing the venture they were engaged in to the determination 
of God, she saw a man on foot coming rapidly up the road 
from the east. 

" Courage, Tirzah ! Be of cheer," she said. " Yonder I 
know is one to tell us of the Nazarene." 

Amrah helped the girl to a sitting posture, and supported 
her while the man advanced. 

" In your goodness, mother, you forget what we are. The 
stranger will go around us ; his best gift to us will be a 
curse, if not a stone." 

" We will see." 

There was no other answer to be given, since the mother 
was too well and sadly acquainted with the treatment out- 
casts of the class to which she belonged were accustomed 
to at the hands of her countrymen. 

As has been said, the road at the edge of which the group 
was posted was little more than a worn path or trail, wind- 
ing crookedly through tumuli of limestone. If the stranger 
kept it, he must meet them face to face ; and he did so, 
until near enough to hear the cry she was bound to give. 
Then, uncovering her head, a further demand of the law, 
she shouted shrilly, 

" Unclean, unclean !" 

To her surprise, the man came steadily on. 

" What would you have ?" he asked, stopping opposite 
them not four yards off. 

"Thou seest us. Have a care," the mother said, with 
dignity. 

" Woman, I am the courier of him who speaketh but 
once to such as thou and they are healed. I am not 
afraid." 

" The Nazarene ?" 

" The Messiah," he said, 

" Is it true that he cometh to the city to-day ?" 

"He is now at Belh^ha^e." 



BEN-HUR : A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 491 

" On what road, master ?" 

" This one." 

She clasped her hands, and looked up thankfully. 

"For whom takest thou him?" the man asked, with 
pity. 

** The Son of God," she replied. 

" Stay thou here then ; or, as there is a multitude with 
him, take thy stand by the rock yonder, the white one un- 
der the tree ; and as he goeth by fail not to call to him ; 
call, and fear not. If thy faith but equal thy knowledge, 
he will hear thee though all the heavens thunder. I go to 
tell Israel, assembled in and about the city, that he is at 
hand, and to make ready to receive him. Peace to thee 
and thine, woman." 

The stranger moved on. 

" Did you hear, Tirzah ? Did you hear ? The Nazarene 
is on the road, on this one, and he will hear us. Once 
more, my child — oh, only once ! and let us to the rock. It 
is but a step." 

Thus encouraged Tirzah took Amrah^s hand and arose ; 
but as they were going, Amrah said, " Stay ; the man is re- 
turning." And they waited for him.' 

** I pray your grace, woman," he said, upon overtaking 
them. " Remembering that the sun will be hot before the 
Nazarene arrives, and that the city is near by to give me re- 
freshment should I need it, I thought this water would do 
thee better than it will me. Take it and be of good cheer. 
Call to him as he passes." 

He followed the words by offering her a gourd full of 
water, such as foot-travellers sometimes carried with them 
in their journeys across the hills ; and instead of placing 
the gift on the ground for her to take up when he was at 
a safe distance, he gave it into her hand. 

" Art thou a Jew ?" she asked, surprised. 

" I am that, and better ; I am a disciple of the Christ 
who teacheth daily by word and example this thing which 
I have done unto you. The world hath long known the 
word charity without understanding it. Again I say peace 
and good cheer to thee and thine." 

He went on, and they went slowly to the rock he had 



492 BENHUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST. 

pointed oat to them, high as their heads, and scarcely thir- 
ty yards from the road on the right. Standing in front of 
it, the mother satisfied herself they could be seen and heard 
plainly by passers-by whose notice they desired to attract. 
There they cast themselves under the tree in its shade, and 
drank of the gourd, and rested refreshed. Ere long Tirzah 
slept, and fearing to disturb her, the others held their peace. 



Chapter FV. 

During the third hour the road in front of the resting- 
place of the lepers became gradually more and more fre- 
quented by people going in the direction of Bethphage and 
!Bethany ; now, however, about the commencement of the 
fourth hour, a great crowd appeared over the crest of Oli- 
vet, and as it defiled down the road thousands in number, 
the two watchers noticed with wonder that every one in it 
carried a palm-branch freshly cut. As they sat absorbed 
by the novelty, the noise of another multitude approaching 
from the east drew their eyes that way. Then the mother 
awoke Tirzah. 

" What is the meaning of it all ?" the latter asked. 

" He is coming," answered the mother. " These we see 
are from the city going to meet him ; those we hear in the 
east are his friends bearing him company ; and it will not 
be strange if the processions meet here before us. 

" I fear, if they do, we cannot be heard." 

The same thought was in the elder's mind. 

" Amrah," she asked, " when Judah s